Minnesota Supreme Court upholds legislative fix of whistleblower law

In the wake of several recent pro-plaintiff rulings in employment law or civil rights cases, the Minnesota Supreme Court has just ruled in a unanimous decision authored by the Chief Justice that a “good faith” report by a whistleblower means any report not knowingly false or recklessly disregarding the truth. This broad interpretation of Minnesota’s whistleblower law, which follows the intent of the Minnesota Legislature when amending the whistleblower law in 2013, bodes well for whistleblowers and, therefore, the rule of law. By affirming the Minnesota Legislature’s expansive definition of “good faith” report, the Minnesota Supreme Court has enabled whistleblowers to prosecute retaliation claims more effectively going forward.

The unanimous nature of the decision in the case, Friedlander v. Edwards Lifesciences, LLC, is especially striking because lawyers for the United States Chamber of Commerce entered the fray in favor of the employer and against the plaintiff. The United States Chamber of Commerce specifically argued that a whistleblower supposedly makes a “good faith” report, such that he or she receives protection under the whistleblower law, only if the purpose of the report is to “expose an illegality.” As a practical matter, the adoption of that argument would likely have led to significant retaliation going unaddressed and vital whistleblowing being shut down. Given the often highly charged and even punitive climate in the country currently, Friedlander offers welcome reassurance that the transparency and accountability facilitated by whistleblowers will continue.