Workplace retaliation occurs when an employer commits a negative action against an employee in response to a protected act, most often participating in an investigation against the company or reporting some type of harassment. Retaliation can include cut hours, sudden termination, changed hours, or lack of access to key projects that could help the affected individual increase his career.
Federal law helps protect against workplace retaliation, including the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX), the False Claims Act (FCA), and the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA). Like many states, Minnesota also has its own laws that help protect against workplace retaliation. Understanding Minnesota workplace retaliation laws can make it easier for you to navigate potential negative consequences in the workplace following a report of discrimination, involvement in an investigation, or other protected activities.
Minnesota Human Rights Act
The Minnesota Human Rights Act is one of many Minnesota workplace retaliation laws. It protects everyone in Minnesota from facing illegal discrimination when they are in a protected class. Protected classes include:
- National origin
- Marital status
- Familial status (including whether someone is married or has children)
- Sexual orientation
One of the areas protected by the Minnesota Human Rights Act is business and employment: that is, employers cannot discriminate against their employees for those protected reasons.
The Human Rights Act also makes it illegal to engage in reprisal, or revenge, as a result of opposing discrimination, having friends from protected classes, taking part in a human rights investigation, or filing a discrimination charge against your employer, or an associate of your employer.
Protections under the Minnesota Human Rights Act allow you to pursue legal action if your employer retaliates against you after your involvement in an investigation or report of discrimination. As a whistleblower, you are protected from retaliation as a direct result of your report or participation in an investigation. That does not mean that you cannot face negative actions at work, including a loss of hours or even firing, for other reasons following one of those protected actions, but it does mean that you cannot face those negative consequences as a direct result of your involvement in those activities.
If you do face negative actions at work as a result of protected activities or classes under the Minnesota Human Rights Act, a workplace retaliation lawyer can help you learn more about your next steps, including how to pursue a claim against your employer. You may have the right to have your job reinstated, to recover back pay for any time spent out of work, and even to recover punitive damages from your employer.
Minnesota Whistleblower Act
“Whistleblower” is the term used for employees who report or expose illegal activities – or activities that they genuinely believe to be illegal – including discrimination, in the workplace. Minnesota workplace retaliation laws protect against retaliation for whistleblowers through the Minnesota Whistleblower Act.
The Minnesota Whistleblower Act offers vital protections that make it illegal to penalize or threaten an employee for engaging in protected acts, including good faith reporting of illegal activities or suspected illegal activities, participating in an investigation into those activities, or refusing to commit an illegal act in the workplace. The Minnesota Whistleblower Act also protects employees who believe that they are acting in accordance with the law. For example, if an employee reports suspected illegal activity, but the ensuing investigation uncovers no evidence of illegal actions, an employee who acted in good faith is still protected under the terms of the Whistleblower Act.
The Minnesota Whistleblower Act notes that there can be significant damages recovered when an employer violates the standards of the Whistleblower Act. The employee can pursue:
- Reinstatement to a job that was lost
- Removal of any negative records pertaining to the whistleblower’s actions
- Back pay for any hours missed at work
- Compensatory damages for the overall suffering faced by the employee
- Attorney’s fees
- Punitive damages from the employer, in cases where the employer clearly and knowingly violated the employee’s rights
Working with a Minnesota workplace retaliation lawyer can make it easier to determine what damages you might have the right to recover if you have faced retaliation in the workplace, including how your employer has violated Minnesota workplace retaliation laws. Each claim can look different based on the damages caused by your employer’s retaliation, including how it has impacted you financially, professionally, and emotionally, so having a lawyer on your side can prove critical.
Searching for a Workplace Retaliation Lawyer?
If you believe that you are the victim of workplace retaliation, you need a lawyer who can help guide you through your claim. The experienced employment lawyers at MJSB Employment Justice are here to help. Contact us today to learn more about your rights under the Minnesota Whistleblower Act or the Minnesota Human Rights Act, to learn more about Minnesota workplace retaliation laws, or to start your claim against your employer.