Civil/Commercial Litigation (Lawsuits)/whistleblower termination


QUESTION: I know I am only asking your opinion and this is not legal advise.  My daughter is an RN and worked in a nursing home. The home reduced staff and wanted her to do things out of her expertise.  Three days in a row she went up the chain of command asking for help. The fourth day she called in and told them she could not work the specialized unit they had her assigned to without proper help.  She offered to work any other unit.  She was immediately put on suspension.  The home was at that time preparing for a state review (michigan).  She waited 3 weeks to hear back from them.  She was told she would hear by the end of the week.  When she called, the head person was not available.  She asked what was going on.  The second in command, so to speak, told her she thought they were just waiting for her to return. My daughter told this person she didn't plan to return.  She was told to submit paperwork after the Christmas holidays.  She went on vacation and when she returned she had a certified letter stating she had been fired for not being able to handle her job.  Does she have any legal recourse?  She feels like she was fired for being a potential whistleblower.  Is she correct? Is it defamation of character?

ANSWER: Hello Victoria,

Before I respond further to your question, I must make clear that I do not represent you, and cannot give you individual particularized legal advice. No attorney client relationship is created by this email. For legal advice, you should hire your own attorney, and follow their advice. My role with AllExperts is limited to providing general information and suggestions for educational or general knowledge purposes. Before you take any action, consult with your own attorney.

My first impression is that your daughter is not a "whistleblower" within the general understanding of that legal term.  That term generally denotes a situation wherein an employee alerts authorities to some employer misconduct, and then is afforded some legal protection or recourse.  So for example if your daughter discovered her employer was dumping toxic waste in the river behind the workplace and called the police, that act would be "blowing the whistle", and certain laws would offer her protection.  Please examine the following about whistleblower protection:  
Your question does not describe any communication from the employee to authorities about any perceived employer misdeed.  

In my state and presumably some others "defamation" is a common law tort.  The elements of defamation require a plaintiff to prove that 1. the offender made a false statement; 2. that false statement was communicated to someone besides the plaintiff; and 3. the false statement tended to harm the plaintiff's reputation and to lower their estimation or reputation in their community.  Please see Richie v. Paramount Pictures, 544 N.W.2d 21 at 25 (Minn.1996).  Your question does not describe defamation.  If the employer had falsely communicated that your daughter was stealing medication from patients, that would begin to sound like defamation to me.

I cannot offer an opinion on other legal recourse.  Generally, employment is at will, so if there is no contract, an employer could terminate an employee for no reason at all, or any lawful reason.  For example, the employer may have a downturn in business, and elect to cut back on staff.  Or the employer could take the position that it wants staff with greater expertise.  Based on your description, I'm not perceiving any cause of action for your daughter to bring against her former employer.

I suggest that you find an attorney licensed in your area to help your daughter look at local laws and consider what, if any, options for a remedy at the courthouse may be available.

I hope this helps, good luck to you and your family.

Morgan Smith
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Conciliation Court * Civil Litigation * Forfeitures * Construction * Family Law

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: After I asked this question my daughter informed me that she did indeed call the state, and that was why they were getting ready for the inspection. Does this change things?

Hello again Victoria,

The same conditions of my original answer apply to this follow up.


It depends on what was said during the telephone call.  If your daughter reported some misconduct by the employer, that may trigger protection under certain whistleblower statutes.  Again, please see

I again suggest that you find an attorney licensed in your state to help.  I think it prudent to have your daughter describe exactly what happened both at work and during her call to the authorities.  I'm still not hearing any actionable misconduct, but perhaps there is more in the details that your daughter can share with her attorney.

I hope this helps, good luck to you both.

Morgan Smith
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Conciliation Court * Civil Litigation * Forfeitures * Construction * Family Law

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Morgan Smith


Civil litigation (contract claims, landlord-tenant actions, forfeiture suits, residential construction defect matters), Family law (divorce, custody modifications, child support modifications, and pre-nuptial agreement), new business start-ups, civil forfeiture, asset forfeiture. Please do not submit your question as Private. It is my policy not to answer Private questions from members of the public here on AllExperts; I reserve that function to my private clients. Although AllExperts permits me to change your questions from Private to Public, it is my policy not to do that. I encourage you to resubmit your question as a public question. Your public question has the potential to help others with similar concerns. I suggest that you use a pretend name and otherwise alter sensitive facts that make you inclined to treat your question as Private, and submit your question to me Publicly.


I've been practicing law in the State of Minnesota since 1995. I've worked in skyscraper firms, and now my own small firm in Minneapolis. Past answers from my earlier participation on AllExperts is posted at:

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