Michigan and federal laws protect workers after they report illegal or unethical behavior by their employers to the authorities. However, workers can find it hard to protect their rights under these laws.
An ongoing trial involving an auto executive recently highlighted the issue of whistleblowing in business. A Fiat Chrysler Automobiles sales executive is engaged in litigation with his employer over his pay, after he said his pay was cut by 90%.
He has asked a federal judge to give him whistleblower status under Michigan's Whistleblowers' Protection Act, arguing that the pay cut was motivated by his cooperation with a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation into Fiat Chrysler's sales reporting. In 2016, the company admitted that it had inflated sales numbers to cover up a drop in sales.
Fiat Chrysler argues that the executive should not be given whistleblower protection, as he engaged in the illegal sales reporting himself. He remains the company's top sales executive in North America.
Workers often fear reporting illegal or unethical behavior because they fear being fired or facing other retaliation. Michigan's whistleblower protection law is designed to encourage the reporting of bad behavior by protecting workers when they come forward. Workers can file a civil action within 90 days to seek back pay, reinstatement of benefits and seniority rights, court costs, attorney's fees and to get their jobs back.
Whistleblower cases can be difficult. Gathering the right documentation can be crucial to building a strong case. Whistleblowers should talk to a lawyer about their rights and legal options as early as they can.