Florida law prohibits retaliation against employees who provide information to governmental agencies or who object to unlawful acts of the employer. Retaliation can include termination, demotion, reduction in pay and benefits, and other material changes in the employment relationship. We have a great deal of experience representing employers and employees in whistleblower cases, and can help you determine whether a violation of the law has occurred.
An actual whistle blower is someone who sees wrongdoing in the workplace, a violation of a law, a rule, or a regulation, and they speak up about it to the employer and say, “We’re breaking a rule or a law,” and the employer turns around and retaliates against them for speaking up about that violation.
An employer can’t take action against an employee, which is called an adverse action, like a termination, or demotion, or a cut in pay. An employer can’t take an adverse action when the employee has engaged in what’s called a protective activity.
Mostly we see rules broken such as, how to account for your money, or how to report certain things to the government, is a big one. Also, the treatment of people. If an employer is only hiring Brazilians, for example, that’s against the law. We’ll see people speaking up for what they think is unfair. Sometimes, they know it’s against the law. Sometimes, they don’t, and they just feel in their gut, “This is not right.”
If an employee comes forward and engages in a complaint, some kind of protected activity, and the employer subsequently takes action, and if you can prove there’s a connection between the two events, that would be retaliation. That would be a whistle blower violation. They come up in lots of different areas, but you see it mostly in highly regulated industries like accounting, medical practices.
Because they have so many rules that they need to follow, from HIPAA laws, to Medicare, Medicaid.
Anything that has a lot of regulation, by way of how an employer is supposed to handle their finances, their billing practices, that’s usually where it comes out.
A whistle blower should notify the employer first, so that the employer has the opportunity to fix whatever rule violation. Sometimes, if an employer breaks a law or rule, they may not be aware that they’re breaking it. The law says that they need to first report it to their employer, and if the employer doesn’t do anything about it, then the employee can reach out to, whether it’s a government agency or a lawyer, to do something about it.