Many people are familiar with the term “whistleblower,” but many are not clear on what it means. If you are thinking of blowing the whistle on fraud or misconduct, it is important to first understand who qualifies as a whistleblower in Michigan.
To be a whistleblower under Michigan law and maintain a legal claim for whistleblower retaliation, an employee must meet three elements:
- You make a complaint to a government agency, or you inform your employer that you intend to make a complaint;
- The complaint made must allege your employer committed some illegal conduct; and
- Your employer was aware of your complaint.
It is important to clarify a few points as to the elements stated above.
Your complaint must be made to a government agency such as the EEOC, the police, or OSHA. Internal complaints to a private employer will not suffice. However, if your employer is a public agency—for example, if you are a police officer or work for a public university—an internal complaint will suffice as your complaint was to a governmental agency.
The conduct you allege does not need to be ultimately deemed illegal. Rather, you must have a genuine belief that, at the time you made the complaint, the conduct complained of was illegal.
Your employer must have actual, or constructive, knowledge of your complaint. Actual knowledge can be established by proof that your employer received the EEOC notice, you provided them a copy of the police report, or some other document showing your complaint.
Constructive knowledge generally concerns what the employer should have known, what you told them, and the expectations of an employer to investigate a claim/workplace issue.
If your employer takes some form of adverse employment action, and you meet these elements, you may have a claim for whistleblower retaliation. The adverse employment action generally occurs when an employer fires, demotes, reduces pay, or takes some other action affecting a term of an employee’s employment. However, just because you are a whistleblower does not mean your employer cannot take any action against you. Your employer can still take action against your employment, or a term of your employment, so long as the reason for the action was not related to the complaint.
It is important to note, that a claim for whistleblower protection has one of the shortest statutes of limitations, being just 90 days from the date of the adverse employment action. Given the short statute of limitations, it is important you call an attorney immediately after the adverse action is taken to ensure your rights are protected.
To find out whether you qualify as a whistleblower, and to assess the adverse employment action taken against you, reach out to our skilled Michigan attorneys at Grewal Law PLLC. To better serve our clients, we have offices across the state in Grand Rapids, Northville, and Okemos.
Contact Grewal Law PLLC online for a free and confidential consultation.