Whistle While You Work – Understanding Whistleblower Protection Laws

If you are working for an employer who is knowingly violating the law or even conducting its business practices in a grossly negligent manner, you are legally allowed to “blow the whistle” without suffering the loss of your job. Many employees are hesitant to come forward and reveal damning information about their employer for fear of being terminated out of retaliation. This is perfectly understandable since Florida follows the “at-will” employment doctrine. This means employees can be fired at any time for basically any reason, subject to certain important exceptions.

State Laws Protecting Whistleblowers

According to the Florida Whistleblower’s Act, Fla. Stat. § 112.3187, a public sector worker may not be fired in retaliation for disclosing violations of federal, state or local law. In addition, you may not be fired for disclosing gross mismanagement, waste, Medicaid fraud, or gross neglect of duty committed by a state agency.

According to the Florida Private Sector Whistleblower’s Act, Fla. Stat. § 448.102, a private sector employee may not be fired for disclosing a practice of the employer that violates a law or regulation to an appropriate state or federal agency. Though, be advised that you are required to bring the matter to the attention of a supervisor and this must be done in writing.

In addition to protections for revealing violations of local, state, or federal law, you cannot be fired for utilizing a recognized state law applying to employees such as Florida’s workers’ compensation system. This means if you were injured on the job and filed a workers’ compensation claim, you may not be fired for filing such a claim, according to Fla. Stat. § 440.205.

State Laws Protecting Whistleblowers

She claims she filed three complaints about sexual harassment by her supervisor. The third complaint was filed in October 2015, just two months before she was terminated.

Assisting with an Investigation

You may be asking, “What if I did not blow the whistle, but my company is being investigated and I’ve been asked to assist with the investigation. Can I be fired for agreeing to do so?” The answer is no. An employee may not be fired in retaliation for participating in an investigation.

What To Do If You are Fired and Suspect It was Related to Whistleblowing

If you suddenly lose your job after reporting your employer to a state agency or you participated in an investigation, you likely have a legal basis to pursue damages for illegal retaliation through a wrongful termination lawsuit.

If you work in the private sector, you must file your wrongful termination lawsuit within two years of the date of your termination. If you are in the public sector, you have an even shorter period of time – you must file suit within 180 days of receiving notice of your termination.

Not Terminated, But Had Your Pay Reduced, Hours Cut, or Suffered a Demotion

Some employers are quite sneaky and will take actions to “punish” you, but not outright fire you out of fear for being sued in state or federal court. Examples include a sudden and unexplained reduction in your work hours or demotion. Another example is a sudden decrease in your pay or disqualification from an annual bonus. These actions still qualify as retaliation and you may still be able to take legal action, even if you were not outright terminated.

Speak to an Experienced Fort Lauderdale Whistleblower and Workplace Retaliation Lawyer Today

The law firm of Mark J. Berkowitz, P.A. is here to help you in your time of need. If you are facing retaliatory actions from your employer, you should speak to an experienced Fort Lauderdale whistleblower attorney right away. Call our office at 954-527-0570.

Resource:

The 2018 Florida Statutes