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Exotic wildcat refuge hit with whistleblower retaliation lawsuit

When employees are brave enough to come forward to report misconduct on the part of management or fellow employees in the interests of protecting the organization, they deserve to be commended for their courage and honesty. Unfortunately, this isn't always what happens and employees who take this step may find themselves demoted or, even worse, terminated.

Fortunately, when this happens to employees, they do have options. For instance, they may be able to file a whistleblower retaliation lawsuit.  

Interestingly enough, the employees at one Minnesota non-profit recently filed just such a lawsuit, alleging that they were unlawfully fired or forced to resign their position after reporting otherwise egregious conduct to the board of directors. 

The whistleblower retaliation lawsuit in question was filed by six employees of a wildlife sanctuary for exotic wildcats located in Pine County.

According to the compliant, five of the employees were terminated and another was forced to resign after reporting to the board that the sanctuary's executive director had been using the nonprofit's donated funds for her own benefit, paying for everything from her dogs to her house.

Here, the complaint characterizes the mass dismissals as "a startling example of unlawful retaliation" given that all six employees had heretofore earned positive performance reviews.

In addition to alleging unlawful retaliation, the lawsuit also accuses the wildlife sanctuary of violating the state's wage laws by failing to keep accurate records of hours worked and failing to pay overtime. It also alleges accuses the executive director and board members of making defamatory statements about the six departed employees in public.

It is worth noting that just a few weeks ago the Minnesota Attorney General's Office issued a report confirming that the executive director had indeed misused funds and outlining various conditions that the wildlife sanctuary would be required to meet over the next five years (filing regular reports, hiring an outside auditor, etc.) to keep its nonprofit status.

Stay tuned for developments …

If you believe that you have been victimized by employer retaliation, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional to learn more about your rights and what you can do to secure justice.

Source: The Star Tribune, "Fired employees in Pine County file whistleblower suit against Wildcat Sanctuary," Kevin Giles, May 7, 2014

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