A whistleblower is an employee who reports another employee and/or the organization’s illegal activities. These employees have certain protections under state and federal employment and labor laws, but that isn’t enough to stop some employers from creating hostility in the workplace.
Employees who report corporate wrongdoing are often unfairly targeted by their employers. They may face retaliation or wrongful termination in the wake of their allegations against the organization.
Some common examples are billing for services not rendered, submitting false compliance statements, illegal kickbacks and illegal dumping.
Whistleblowers can be awarded a portion of the money that is recovered from the wrongdoing and are essential to protecting our society.
As such, you must speak with a trusted Miami whistleblower lawyer if your employer/former employer is unfairly targeting you for whistleblowing.
In the meantime, it may be a good idea to familiarize yourself with some common Whistleblower legal terms, concepts and examples.Does Florida Have Whistleblower Laws?
The state of Florida recognizes two whistleblower laws: one for private-sector employees, the other for public-sector employees. These statutes provide employees with broad protections:Private-Sector Employees
The private-sector employee Whistleblower’s Act (Fla. Stat. § 448.102) protects employees who report, threaten to report, and/or object to an activity, policy, and/or practice that violates at least one law, rule, or regulation.
For example, a server at a busy restaurant catches a co-worker stealing credit card numbers.
In some cases, the employee is required to provide written notice and an opportunity for the employer to correct the activity, policy, or practice.Public-Sector Employees
Florida’s Whistle-blower’s Act (Fla. Stat. § 112.3187) is more specific and protects public-sector employees who disclose information regarding suspected violations that create and present “a substantial and specific danger to the public’s health, safety, or welfare.”
For example, a public official using tax dollars to fund lavish international vacations.
The statute also protects public-sector employees who disclose information about “any act or suspected act of gross mismanagement, malfeasance, misfeasance, gross waste of public funds, suspected or actual Medicaid fraud or abuse, and/or gross neglect of duty.”
When an employee follows their legal obligations under the relevant whistleblower law to report or object to wrongdoing, that employee has protection against employer retaliation.What Does At-Will Employment Mean?
The State of Florida generally follows the “at-will employment doctrine,” meaning that employment is presumed to be voluntary and indefinite. In other words, you may quit for any reason, at any time, without warning. An employer also has the right to terminate you for almost any reason, at any time, without warning, unless an exception or additional protection exists that makes the wrongful termination illegalWhat Are Some Additional Protections?
In addition to the above state protections, federal law provides workers with additional protections, like anti-discrimination and anti-retaliation laws. Protection for requesting unpaid wages, FMLA, federal reporting requirements, anti-kickback laws, and other anti-corruption laws. Furthermore, a private contract or collective bargaining agreement may also protect employees from certain forms of retaliation.How Do I File a Whistleblower Retaliation Claim?
Always speak with a trusted Miami whistleblower attorney before filing a whistleblower claim. The process is incredibly nuanced and requires expert legal counsel.Private Sector Employees
In most cases, a private sector employee may file a wrongful discharge lawsuit with the appropriate court. The lawsuit must be filed within 2 (two) years of discovering the alleged illegal activity and retaliation.Public Sector Employees
Several different factors play into how long public sector employees have to file a claim. The process often begins by filing a formal claim with the appropriate government agency. For example, if you file with the Florida Commission on Human Relations (FCHR), the lawsuit must be filed within 180 days of receiving notice that they have completed their investigation.
Employees who believe they were retaliated against for whistleblowing may be entitled to:
- Lost wages and benefits
- Job reinstatement
- Reimbursement of attorney’s and court fees
Additionally, private-sector employees may also seek compensatory damages for emotional distress.What are Some Examples of Whistleblower Cases?
These are some of the cases that Alberto Naranjo has personally handled as a whistleblower attorney in the Miami area. Names have been changed to protect client confidentiality, but the details of the story remain the same.
Protecting Yourself: Whistleblower
Erin, a drug rehabilitation and detox clinic employee, submitted written concerns to HR about suspicious corporate activity less than three months after joining the company. In an email sent to HR, Erin detailed what she believed to be unethical billing practices. The information was credible, given Erin’s extensive industry background, and so damning that the company’s CEO personally attempted to ruin Erin’s professional reputation. Attorney Alberto Naranjo proved Erin was retaliated against for whistleblowing and secured compensatory damages.
Dr. Syned, M.D., Ph.D., voiced concerns about the hospital misleading research patients into experimental procedures. After alleging that patients were often unaware they were being used for clinical research, Dr. Syned says he was left out of department-wide meetings and removed from previously scheduled speaking engagements. A superior also threatened to terminate Dr. Syned due to conflict-of-interest, alleging his work at a different institution violated protocol. AN Law Firm, P.A. investigated the claim and discovered Dr. Syned had disclosed his employment with both institutions, per protocol, and revealed he did not actively seek the position but rather recruited by the other institution. Attorney Alberto Naranjo fought to protect Dr. Syned’s reputation of an esteemed research physician and secured compensatory damages to cover emotional distress and legal fees.
The following tips help employees protect themselves against whistleblower retaliation and ultimately strengthening the claim.
- Records and Logs
- Maintain a personal logbook (not on company-owned devices) documenting the illicit activity. Be sure to include the names of other employees with knowledge
- Personal Emails
- It may be difficult to recover emails from a former employer’s serves. Use a personal email account whenever possible to communicate with your employer
- Contact a Whistleblower Lawyer in the Miami Area
- Whistleblower claims are complex and require expert legal advice. Before speaking with your employer, speak with an employment law attorney.
Whistleblower protection is indescribably nuanced whether you’re an exempt or non-exempt employee in both the private and public sectors. The bottom line, however, is that no employer has the right to retaliate against you for exposing illicit corporate behavior. But every case is different.
If your employer is retaliating or has retaliated against you for whistleblowing, contact AN Law Firm, P.A. for a risk-free consultation.