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Sterling Employment Law

How the law protects a whistleblower at work in Michigan

In Michigan and across the country employees might witness certain acts, policies or behaviors that are in violation of the law. These violations can cause damage and place people at risk. The witness might, however, be concerned that they will be confronted with problems at work, a denial of benefits or even lose their jobs entirely if they report what they have seen. That is why the Whistleblowers' Protection Act was passed in 1980.

After a violation has been reported by an employee, the employer is not allowed to issue threats, dismiss or discriminate against that employee. This relates to the terms of employment, its conditions and privileges. It is also illegal if the person who is a whistleblower is acting on behalf of the employee. Whether the employee or representative of the employee is reporting the violations in writing or verbally, it is still illegal to commit any form of retaliation. There is an exception if the employee is aware that the report being issued is false.

Relief can be sought by an employee subjected to retaliation in civil court. The action must be taken within 90 days of the incident occurring. It can be taken in the circuit court of the county where the violation happened, where the complainant lives, where the business is located or where the target of the complaint lives. When damages are assessed, they will calculate the injury or loss as a result of the violation. The employee who is claiming retaliation must present evidence that retaliation did in fact occur.

Although it is natural to be concerned about one's position if a decision has to be made whether or not to move forward and be a whistleblower, the laws are in place to provide protection from retaliation for those who do make a report. When there has been an incident in which a person was a whistleblower and has been retaliated against, it is important to have a full understanding of employee rights under the state law.

Source: legislature.mi.gov, "The Whistleblowers' Protection Act," accessed on Sep. 28, 2015

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