A whistleblower is considered to be a protected person under both national and Minnesota law, and they must be given certain rights within the workplace. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, whistleblowers are employees who choose to disclose information that they believe show evidence of illegal activity, gross fraud or waste, an abuse of power, mismanagement, or any general wrongdoing. It may also include a disclosure that shows a specific and substantial danger to the safety and health of the public.
Under Minnesota law, both public and private employers are prohibited from retaliating against whistleblowers. This retaliation can come in the form of a discharge, threats, discipline, harassment or discrimination against an employee. Employers also cannot handle the compensation, conditions, terms of employment or location or privileges they grant to an employee solely based on their status as a whistleblower. Instead, whistleblowers must be treated exactly as if they had not disclosed any information about the company and in an identical manner to every other employee.
Should an employer choose to retaliate against a whistleblower, they may face civil lawsuits resulting in compensation for costs, attorney fees, and damages the whistleblower sustained as a result of the unlawful action taken against them. The rights of whistleblowers are largely dictated by the industry and states in which they work. For instance, those working for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission are protected under one law, while transportation worker would cite another law for protection for their actions. For this reason, it is imperative that workers learn about the specific laws that would provide them protection in the event they come across information that they morally and ethically need to disclose.