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"We're seeing a lot of people reaching out. We've had clients come to us that are reaching out because they've been retaliated and their employment has drastically changed, and they're reaching out to find out what they could do," Brown said. "They literally are just trying to keep their job, or be compensated if they just lost their job."
For someone filing under the national Whistleblower Act, under the False Claims Act, Brown said they have 10 years to file their suit. In state situations, it's a little different. The Michigan Whistleblower Protection Act, enacted in 1980, requires that an action be filed within 90 days of the occurrence that is the basis of the claim, which many attorneys assert is the major shortfall in Michigan's law.
"In Michigan, it's too strict. Ninety days is a huge impediment," said attorney Akeel. "While the statute protects the employees who blow the whistle, the weakness of the WPA statute is that it has the shortest statute of any law.
In Michigan's WPA, relief includes reinstatement, back pay, fringe benefits, seniority rights, injunctive relief, actual damages, and costs and attorney's fees. A violator is liable for a civil fine of not more than $500.
"They've just been fired and that is very tragic. When someone gets fired, it takes them a month to just realize what happened," Akeel continued. "They have to figure it out, why they've been fired. Then maybe they learn there's the whistleblower act. They come to my office and it's too late. That's the biggest reason why whistleblower suits fail. Look, with personal injury suits, they have three years to bring a lawsuit. Breach of contract, six years. Fraud, ten years. We see one to three a week, and it's an unknown act – why they often don't prevail, because they don't know about it in time."
Mark Koroi also thinks that Michigan's WPA does not adequately protect as many whistleblowers as it could, "because with only 90 days to file, you can't do a full background check and complete all the research, find the facts and interview the witnesses you need to. You need a couple of years. With WPA, there is no temporal proximity."
Jason Shinn asserted that Michigan's whistleblower statute "is similar to the federal and other state laws regarding the protected activity, types of retaliation, and burden of proof variations. The most significant difference between Michigan whistleblower protection and other states concerns notice. Certain states first require the employee bring the issue to the attention of a supervisor or the employer, who is then given a 'reasonable opportunity' to correct the violation, but under Michigan law, no such advance notice is required before an employee is entitled to whistleblower protection."...continued on page 10