Under the Michigan Whistleblower’s Protection Act (“WPA”), an employer is subject to civil liability and penalties for discharging, threatening or otherwise discriminating against an employee because the employee reports or is about to report, a violation or suspected violation of a law, regulation or rule to a public body, unless the employee knows that the report is false, or because an employee is requested by a public body to participate in an investigation. This means, a plaintiff in a WPA case is required to prove (1) he or she was engaged in a protected activity as provided under the act, (2) he or she suffered an adverse employment action, and (3) there is a causal connection between the protected activity and the adverse employment action.
While it has been long recognized by the Michigan courts that these are the three prongs required for a successful WPA case, there have been some Michigan casesin the past providing that a plaintiff is also required to prove that he or she engaged in that protected activity primarily for an altruistic purpose: to inform the public on matters of public concern, rather than for any personal vendetta. Recently, the Michigan Supreme Court issued an opinion clarifying that a plaintiff need not prove that his or her primary motivation was for the public good. Thus, it no longer matters why the plaintiff intended to blow the whistle, and whether it was for a good or bad reason. This allows more plaintiffs to prove their case without having to defend their intentions. This also allows more businesses to be subject to potential whistleblower cases.
The WPA has a very short statute of limitations. If you have been subject to an adverse employment action, or your business has been accused of participating in an adverse employment action, due to a whistleblowing activity, you should seek the advice of legal counsel as soon as you can.
For more information or to speak with us about your whistleblower issue, please contact us in Ann Arbor at 734-665-4441, or in Ypsilanti at 734-483-3626. To learn more about Pear Sperling Eggan & Daniels, P.C., or any of our attorneys, please visit us at www.psedlaw.com.