A whistleblower is an individual who reports potential dangers to public health, safety and the common good to a “public body.” A public body is defined, in part, as a state or local official, regulatory agency, law enforcement, or a member of the judiciary. While whistleblowers often report on issues such as fraud, pollution and corruption that impact a group of people, a person can also file a whistleblower claim against an employer for a wrong against themselves, such as forcing a non-essential worker to continue their employment during a pandemic like COVID-19. If you are unsure of where or how to report a violation of law, code, or regulation, we encourage you to contact our office.
Our whistleblower protection lawyers are on standby ready to provide the advice you need to protect yourselves and the general public.
Executive Order 2020-21 (COVID 19) went into effect on March 24, 2020 at 12:01 am. This executive order held in Paragraph 4 that “[n]o person or entity shall operate a business or conduct operations that require workers to leave their homes or places of residence except to the extent that those workers are necessary to sustain or protect life or to conduct minimum business operations.”
Workers necessary to sustain or protect life are defined as “critical infrastructure workers,” which include: health care, law enforcement, energy, water, transportation, logistics, public works, IT, communications, news, community based government organizations, critical manufacturing, hazardous materials, financial services, chemical companies, and defense industry companies.
Workers necessary to conduct minimum business operations are those whose presence is “strictly necessary to allow the business or operation to maintain the value of inventory and equipment, care for animals, ensure security, process transactions (including payroll and employee benefits), or facilitate the ability of other workers to work remotely.”
It is important to note that either category – necessary to sustain/protect life OR necessary to conduct minimum business operations – may be designated by an employer and required to attend work in person, subject to the other terms and conditions of this order. However, employees that are not necessary to sustain life or conduct minimum business operations should not be required to attend work in person.
Also, the Executive Order 2021-17 places temporary restrictions on non-essential medical procedures. Effective March 21, 2020, this order in part restricts the performance of joint replacement, cosmetic surgery, bariatric surgery, and dental surgery procedures except for; trauma, emergency, health/safety/welfare risks of the patient. Medical procedures related to advanced cardiovascular diseases, oncology, and pregnancy are allowed. Dental procedures are also allowed for pain and infection.
“Whistleblowing” is protected under the Michigan Whistleblower’s Protection Act Law, MCL 15.361. The act is complex. You should always contact an attorney for legal advice if you suspect that you have been the subject of unlawful actions taken against you for exercising your whistleblower rights!
Generally, the law prohibits employers from terminating whistleblowers or taking adverse actions against them, such as decreasing pay or scheduled hours. MCL 15.362 defines a whistleblower as an employee who “reports or is about to report, verbally or in writing, a violation or suspected violation of law or regulation or rule promulgated pursuant to the law of this state, a political subdivision of this state, or the United States to a public body.” This section further excludes reports that the employee knows to be false and includes participation into any formal investigations, inquiries, or hearings held by any public body.
A “public body” is defined by MCL 15.361. This term includes the judiciary and its members; law enforcement; bodies created or funded by local or state authority; state agencies, boards, and commissions; state officers and members of the state executive branch; and county/city/township governing bodies.
Please note for the purpose of statutes of limitation, that any lawsuit must be filed within ninety (90) days of the alleged violation of the act. MCL 15.363. Therefore, you should not delay in contacting an attorney; failure to file in 90 days may forever bar your claim.
As Governor Whitmer’s executive orders are promulgated pursuant to the law of this state and carry criminal penalties for violation, a report or threat to report violations of these executive orders to a public body may be protected by the Whistleblower’s Act. You should always contact an attorney to discuss whether you meet the requirements of this statute and whether you have a viable case.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel has announced that the Office of the Attorney General is working with local law enforcement to enforce Governor Whitmer’s executive orders. The Attorney General’s office has asked residents to call local law enforcement on non-emergency phone lines to file reports. However, you should not call 911 for these types of calls.
If you have been required to attend work and are not “necessary to sustain or protect life or conduct minimum business operations,” you may wish to consider filing a report with your local police agency for the city where you work. Likewise, if you work for a medical facility that is forcing you to perform medical procedures in violation of the executive orders, you may wish to report this to local law enforcement.
If you have filed a report or threatened to file a report and had your pay cut, had your hours docked, have been fired, or have suffered other adverse employment conditions, you should contact our office for a free consultation regarding your rights.
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