A “whistleblower” is an employee who reports illegal or unethical
activity of their employer to the proper authorities. However, since employers
may face monetary penalties, sanctions, and costly remediation costs associated
with correcting the violation, reporting employees may be victims of employer
The purpose of retaliation is to either punish the employee, deter future
reports, or both. Acts of retaliation include job termination, suspensions,
denial of pay or benefits, demotion, and even threats.
Since it is in our society’s best interests that violations be reported
and repaired, the government encourages employees to report by offering
them protection against employer retaliation. Hence, Michigan and federal
whistleblower laws protect public and private employees from being the
victim of retaliation for reporting these violations.
Michigan Legal Protections
The general rule is that most employees in the private sector may be fired
at any time for any reason or for no reason under the “at-will employment
doctrine.” However, many exceptions to the general rule have been
established. Exceptions to the at-will employment doctrine derive from
two sources: (1) the courts which create and modify “common law
protections” or (2) th legislature which enacts “statutory
Michigan recognizes a public policy exception to the at-will employment
doctrine. Therefore, an employer may not terminate an employee for a reason
that is contrary to an established public policy. In other words, an employee
has a cause of action to sue for retaliatory discharge when the motivation
for the discharge contravenes a public policy.
Additionally, Michigan has a general whistleblower protection statute the
Whistleblowers’ Protection Act (WPA), which prohibits retaliation
against whistleblowers. According to the WPA, an employee may not be terminated
(or discriminated against) in retaliation for reporting a suspected violation
of a law–whether federal or state, or for participating in an investigation,
hearing, court action, or inquiry.
How to File a Whistleblower Claim in Michigan
According to the general whistleblower protection, it is mandatory for
the report to be made in writing or verbally, and turns it over to a public
body (e.g. state officer, state agency, law enforcement agency, member
of the judiciary, etc.). However, an employee who discloses wrongdoing
to a supervisor is not protected.
An employee may file a lawsuit in an appropriate court. The lawsuit is
required to be filed within 90 days of the retaliatory action. For wrongful
discharge claims, an employee needs to file a complaint within three years
of the retaliatory action.
Courtmay award the following:
- Job and position reinstatement
- Reinstatement of benefits
- Back pay
- Seniority rights
- Attorney costs
- Court costs
If you believe you have a Michigan whistleblower claim, do not hesitate to
contact White Law PLLC and request a free consultation with our Okemos employment law attorney
today. Get more than six decades of experience on your side immediately.
Call or text (517) 316-1195 or complete a Free Case Evaluation form