The term “whistleblower” has taken center stage in many major media stories in recent years. From Edward Snowden to Chelsea Manning – the public attention on people who leak “classified” or otherwise privileged information has centered around major national and international incidents. However, most whistleblowers are actually everyday workers who come across unwanted, unethical, or illegal behavior in the workplace.
These people are nobly sticking their necks out to protect not only themselves but others from these behaviors. It’s important to protect the right to call out such acts, and, thankfully, U.S. and Florida laws have protections for those individuals.
Florida employee protections
In Florida, the Whistle-blower’s Act provides specific and thorough protections for employees against retaliation from “agencies or independent contractors” for exposing “violations of law … that create a substantial and specific danger to the public’s health, safety, or welfare.” You may not be fired, disciplined, or face any other “adverse personnel action” for disclosing information such as this or even refusing to participate in the activities which are believed to be in violation of the law or public safety.
What’s important to note is that Statute 448.102 within the Whistle-blower’s Act requires that the employee must disclose, in writing, the “activity, policy, or practice” to a supervisor and allow the employer reasonable opportunity to correct the policy.
If you believe you’ve been subjected to adverse personnel action because of a whistleblower complaint then you can file a claim. In Florida, the state requires that you prove that the action was a direct result of your complaint. This could include firing, being targeted through harassment in the workplace, being demoted, receiving a pay cut, or refusing to promote you despite qualifications above the standard for promotion.
When you’re able to prove your case you will be owed recourse for any lost pay and benefits along with legal fees and potential emotional damages. Your employer may also be required to reinstate you at your previous salary with the same benefits you had at the time of your firing.
Federal government employee protections
The Whistleblower Act of 1989 provides protections to most federal government employees who disclose information the employee “reasonably believes evidences an activity constituting a violation of law, rules, or regulations, or mismanagement, gross waste of funds, abuse of authority or a substantial and specific danger to public health and safety.” The only exclusions to this are employees who work in intelligence communities such as the CIA or FBI. Those employees are covered by the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act of 1998. This act provides similar protections but has more red tape surrounding the channels and oversight through which “Protected Disclosures” must be made.
What this all means is that if you’re a federal government employee working in Florida (or elsewhere) then you have the right to speak up when you see actions that put the public at risk. You don’t have to be a personal eyewitness to the events but will need to provide evidence backing your claims which could be in the form of documents, records, or eyewitness statements.
Non-intelligence federal employees are expected to make their disclosures to Congress, the Office of the Inspector General, or the Office of the Special Counsel. Both the Whistleblower Act of 1989 and the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act of 1998 (through amendments) provide recourse should the employee(s) face retaliation for making legal whistleblower claims.
The Whistleblower Act also provides additional protections for public employees on top of what’s provided under Florida’s Whistle-blower’s Act. It’s important to know what protections you have and when you have a case against your current or former employer. At Feldman Legal Group, we fight for those who have been retaliated against for doing the right thing. Don’t let scare tactics get in the way of protecting others. If you believe you have a whistleblower claim, contact our team today.