Whistleblower Fundamentals in a Changing Environment
Minnesota employers are now dealing with a series of significant changes in the state whistleblower law. Suffice it to say, the statutory changes (which came with little forewarning or employer input, but now are getting significant attention) make it much easier for a current or former employee to assert whistleblower claims for a greater range of conduct and lower obligations of proof.
But the fundamental elements of a whistleblower claim and employer response have not changed. First, the employee must have engaged in protected activity (although that has now been broadened in scope to include reports of common law claims, among other things). Second, there needs to be an adverse employment action (although that has been broadened to include “penalizing” an employee). Third, there needs to be sufficient evidence of a causal connection between the alleged protected activity and the adverse employment action, including employer knowledge of the protected activity and a reasonable proximity in time between the alleged protected conduct and the adverse employment action.
Takeaway: For Minnesota employers the whistleblower “times are a-changin,” but the fundamental elements of the claim hold firm. These elements provide the basic framework for an employer and its legal counsel when responding to a potential whistleblower matter or defending against a whistleblower suit.