Whistleblowers In Florida Are Protected
You are at work, and you see someone that you work for do something illegal. Or maybe you just observe something illegal. Maybe not anything that you consider serious—perhaps immigration fraud, cooking financial books, trying to avoid OSHA regulations, or violating a government regulation.
You know you should say something, but you’re afraid. What if they found out that you “ratted” on them? Will you be fired?
Florida’s Whistleblower Statute
In fact, you won’t-or at least, it would be illegal to fire you, because of Florida’s whistleblower protection law. Florida actually has two whistleblower acts, one that deals with private employers, and another that deals with public, government employers.
If an employer finds out that you, the employee, told others about the illegal activity, you cannot be retaliated against by your employer. The law protects you if you disclose, or even if you threaten to disclose, the illegal activity to government authorities.
The law also protects you if you cooperate in any way, with a government investigation into your employers’ illegal activities. To get the protection, the employee must not have participated in the illegal activity (at least, not knowingly).
You must tell the employer of the violation that you observed and give them the chance to correct what they are doing wrong, or illegal. The violation must be a violation of a law, rule or regulation—it can’t just be something morally wrong.
Public or Government Employers
If you work for a public or governmental agency, the rules are a little stricter. You must sign a written complaint with your supervisor about the illegal activity, or else file a complaint with the Florida Commission on Human Relations.
In the public sector, you are a protected whistleblower not just for reporting illegal activity, but even if you report activity that constitutes “gross misconduct,” that is, severe mismanagement, waste, fraud or neglect.
In the private sector, you have two years to file a complaint if you have been retaliated against by your employer for reporting or threatening to report illegal activity. For a government employer, you have 180 days after the investigation by the state into your allegations is complete.
Looking for Retaliation
Remember that many employers, seeing that you have caught on to something illegal, may try to use what is known as pretext as an excuse to fire or punish you. In other words, they may start to manufacture reasons why you are being forced or doing poorly at work, to make it sound like that’s the real reason you are being fired—not because you told on them for illegal activity.
If you are retaliated against for reporting something illegal, aggrieved employees can get back pay, any financial losses, loss of income, or compensation for lost promotions, raises, or lost bonuses.
Call the West Palm Beach business litigation lawyers at Pike & Lustig today if you have a problem at work, or if you are an employer having legal problems with employees.