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How does the Michigan Whistleblowers' Protection Act work?

According to employment laws in the United States, retaliation against an employee on the grounds of reporting an activity by an employer that is against local, state or federal laws is considered a serious offense. The retaliation can be in the form of discharge from duty or in the form of discrimination at the workplace. In Michigan, these employees, known as "whistleblowers," are protected by the Michigan Whistleblowers' Protection Act of 1980, in addition to the Federal Act of 1989.

According to the Michigan Whistleblowers' Protection Act, an employer is not permitted to fire or otherwise discriminate against an employee regarding compensation, terms and conditions of employment, location of the employee or employment benefits because the employee was party to any legal action taken against an employer for wrongdoing.

There are some important points that an employee needs to note about the act:

  • The act does not limit the rights of the employee or the employer which are mentioned in a collective bargaining agreement.
  • The act also does not require an employer to compensate an employee for participating in any type of governmental action against the employer.
  • Most importantly, the act does not protect an individual if the complaints against his or her employer are found to be false.
  • An employee has a period of 90 days to report any form of violation of this act and file a civil lawsuit against the employer at the circuit court.

According to the Michigan Whistleblowers' Act, employers can face civil fines of up to $50,000 if it is proven that there was a violation of the act. Moreover, the court can also order the reinstatement of the employee and ensure that arrears pertaining to salary and benefits are disbursed. In some cases, if the court feels that there are serious violations of employee rights, it may also grant punitive damages to the whistleblower along with orders to the employer to bear litigation costs, attorney fees and witness fees.

Source: Michigan.gov, "The Whistleblowers' Protection Act," Accessed on Aug. 8, 2014

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