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2 J. Minn. Pub. L. 108 (1981)
Whistleblowers' Protection Act

handle is hein.journals/hplp2 and id is 114 raw text is: WHISTLEBLOWERS' PROTECTION ACT

In January of this year, Michi-
gan became the first state in the
country to enact a whistle-blowing
protection act.  Mich. Comp. Laws
§§ 15.361-369 (1981).  The law is
designed  to protect employees in
private industry who are fired or
disciplined for reporting alleged vio-
lations of federal, state or local law
to public authorities. Any aggrieved
person may bring a civil action for
appropriate injunctive relief or ac-
tual damages. A court, in rendering
judgment, may order reinstatement
of the employee, the payment of back
wages, full reinstatement of fringe
benefits and  seniority  rights, or
any combination of the above reme-
This law is a result of Michi-
gan's PBB (polybrominated byphe-
nyls) tragedy.   After a Michigan
company mistakenly shipped a poi-
sonous fire retardant to state feed
grain cooperatives, farmers lost mil-
lions of dollars in livestock. The
long-term effects of this accident
are still unknown, specifically what
was done to the health of Michigan
residents who ate PBB-affected food.
Yet a government inquiry revealed
that employees of the company were
warned not to volunteer to investi-
gators that the PBB accident might
have been the cause or else they
would be fired.

This innovative statute is de-
signed to encourage more responsi-
bility in the corporate sector.  It
could  assist,  for  example,  the
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
in locating illegal dumping of toxic
materials. Professor Alan Westin of
Columbia University, however, has
pointed out a major defect in the
law. He suggests that the law ought
to require an employee, before going
public, to use a company's own in-
ternal procedures   for  complaint.
He does, however, suggest excep-
tions for situations where deliberate
misconduct is known to top manage-
ment or where an employee reason-
ably fears physical harm. Westin,
Michigan's  Law  to  Protect the
Whistle Blowers, Wall St. J., April
13, 1981, at 16, col. 3.
The Michigan bill did draw op-
position from employer groups on
the grounds that it could lead to
harassing actions and generate con-
siderable amounts of litigation by
employees fired for valid reasons.
But if some of these fears could be
alleviated through provisions such
as one which would award companies
damages for vexatious litigation, this
law could stand a reasonable chance
of passage in Minnesota. The Mich-
igan law is reproduced below for
consideration by interested Minne-
sota citizens.

Daniel Boivin*
*Third-year law student, Hamline University School of Law; B.A. Political
Science, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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