Protections for whistleblowers in Michigan workplaces

| Nov 7, 2019 | Firm News |

When people in Michigan and elsewhere learn of health, safety or criminal violations in their workplaces, they may make the difficult decision to report their employers. The concern for many faced with this situation is the possibility of retaliation. However, there are state and federal whistleblower protections in place to safeguard them from suffering adverse employment actions as a result of their decisions to report workplace violations.

According to Michigan state law, employers are prohibited from threatening, terminating or otherwise discriminating against workers because they reported suspected violations of local, state or federal laws to the appropriate authorities. Further, employers cannot take adverse actions against workers on the basis that they are planning to report such violations. Should employers retaliate in such ways, employees who allege such wrongdoing may bring civil actions to recover financial compensation or injunctive relief.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, federal law also provides whistleblower protections for workers. Employees cannot have unfavorable actions taken against them by employers because they exercised their federal employment rights, which includes the ability to make formal complaints about unhealthful or unsafe working conditions. When they are based entirely or in part on an employee having made such a report, the types of personnel actions that may be considered retaliatory include the following:

  • Making threats or intimidating
  • Reducing hours or pay or denying overtime
  • Demoting
  • Suspending
  • Laying off or terminating
  • Denying a promotion

Employers also cannot reassign workers to less desirable positions because they made a workplace violation complaint. This includes moving an employee to a job with reduced prospects for moving up. Employees who have such actions taken against them may file a complaint with OSHA within 30 days of the alleged retaliation. OSHA may order employers found to have committed such reprisals to make remedies such as reinstating the employees, restoring their benefits or paying them back wages.