If your employer ordered you to perform any act in the workplace that violates a state or federal law, rule or regulation, you should not feel compelled to comply. You have rights and statutory protections against workplace retaliation, for notifying the proper authorities of this illegal activity. If you are going to “blow the whistle,” on an employer based in the Sunshine State, below are three things you need to know about Florida law.
Florida Workers Protected Under State Statutes
In general, Florida adheres to the common-law principle of “at-will” employment. This is a doctrine that states an employer can fire an employee at any time for basically any reason. However, there are two notable exceptions to this general rule. Two statutes were passed by the Florida legislature designed to protect employees from retaliation.
The Florida Public Employees Whistleblower’s Act protects public employees from retaliation. See Fla. Stat. Ann. § 112.3187. The Florida Private Sector Whistleblower’s Act protects employees in the private sector from retaliation. See Fla. Stat. Ann. § 448.102. In addition to these state statutes, federal law provides workers with additional protections.
How the Whistleblower Protections Apply
If you work in the public sector (e.g., a state or local agency or department), you may not be discharged in retaliation for disclosing information that revealed violations of federal, state or local law. Common examples of workplace violations include Medicaid fraud, gross negligence or agency mismanagement.
If you work in the private sector, you have similar protections, where you cannot be discharged for disclosing or threatening to disclose a practice of your employer that is in violation of a state or federal law or regulation. However, there is a caveat for private sector employees – you need to bring the matter to the attention of a supervisor.
How do I file a whistleblower claim in Florida?
The procedural requirements for filing a whistleblower claim vary depending on whether you work in the public sector or private sector. If you work in the private sector, you have the right to file a lawsuit in state or federal court, depending on the basis of your claim. For example, if you are alleging a violation of the Florida Whistleblower’s Act, filing in state court is appropriate since that is a state law. Keep in mind that you need to file the lawsuit within two years of discovering the alleged adverse personnel action was taken.
If you work in the public sector, your timeframe for taking legal action is much shorter. You need to first file a claim with the Florida Commission on Human Relations, so that agency can conduct an investigation. If you want to escalate the matter to litigation, you need to file a lawsuit within 180 days of receiving your notice of the termination of the investigation of the claim filed with the Commission.
Fort Lauderdale Whistleblower Claims Attorney
As you can see, filing a whistleblower claim can be quite complex, with different applicable standards and procedures, based upon where you work. This is why it makes sense to hire an experienced whistleblower lawyer. The Fort Lauderdale law firm of Mark J. Berkowitz, P.A. is here to help. We have decades of experience and will work tirelessly to protect your rights.