We all believe in doing the right thing, but sometimes we are punished at work for following our conscience. This is illegal and has legal remedies.
What Is Retaliation or Reprisal:
A complaint of retaliation or reprisal can be brought against a company that has taken actions that are, in the words of “An Employer’s Guide To Employment Law,” ‘materially adverse to a reasonable employee’ as a result of an employee making a complaint or taking a legally protected action.
‘Materially adverse’ treatment could include termination, but it can also include being disciplined, being demoted, being harassed or discriminated against, having your pay or salary docked, or having your benefits withheld. It is illegal also to give people undesirable jobs to punish whistleblowers.
A charge of retaliation or reprisal is a separate claim from the original complaint the employee is being punished for and can be brought against a company regardless of other charges.
What Actions Are Protected:
According to the Minnesota Statutes, you cannot be punished by your employer for doing any of the following.
- Reporting in good faith a violation or suspected violation of state, local, or federal law.
- Being asked to participate in or cooperating with an investigation, inquiry, or hearing by a public body such as the EEOC, DOL, or OSHA.
- Refusing to follow an order that you have a reason to believe violates state or federal laws while telling your supervisor that you believe the activity is illegal.
- Being a public employee who reports a scientific finding that he or she believes to be accurate and true.
- Reporting a situation in a health care setting that violates recognized standards of care.
Some companies may try to punish you for reporting illegal activities to their internal reporting system. This isn’t right either, and can be remedied.
Where The Protections come From:
Several statutes make provisions that protect employees from retaliation. For instance, there is the section of the Human Rights Act that prohibits any reprisal against people who reported a violation of it or are associated with the people who were discriminated against. This includes reporting on your boss if he or she violates the Human Rights Act. More directly, the Whistleblower Act has a section protecting employees from retaliation.
There is also a common law protection that Minnesota recognizes. Technically, Minnesota is an ‘at-will’ employment state that allows employers to let employees go for whatever reason they want, but the courts have ruled that a termination is illegal if the reason for it clearly violates a public policy.
Important Things To Remember:
In order to successfully bring a charge of retaliation against your employer, you will have to prove that your mistreatment was a direct result of your doing any of the above legally protected actions. This can be difficult, although certain things will help. For instance, if you have virtually no disciplinary proceedings against you at work from before you made the complaint, but you are suddenly punished right afterwards, your case is a little easier.
Regardless, these cases are tricky and you will need a lawyer with experience in this area of the law before proceeding. Fortunately, Villaume & Schiek regularly advocates for victims of retaliation or reprisal at their place of employment and will work to get you reinstated and get you back pay.
Realizing that your employer may be doing something wrong can feel devastating. It can be even more frustrating to find yourself singled out for unfair treatment just because you did the right thing. When you find yourself in this situation, feel free to contact us or call us at (952) 851-9500 for a consultation to find out what your options are.
Disclaimer: The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individualsituation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters and electronic mail. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.