About Florida Whistleblower Laws
Insights into Whistleblower Rights and Obligations
Employees are in a unique position to know what is happening at a business. For this reason, the government encourages employees who have information about wrongdoing to come forward. In some cases whistleblowers are entitled to money a government agency recovers because of information the employee provided. In all cases of legitimate whistleblowing, the employee is protected from retaliation.
Whistleblower protection does not grant an employee immunity from legitimate negative consequences, but only those related to the whistleblowing. However, businesses should be careful to document the reasons for firing an employee who is considered a whistleblower under Florida or federal law.
Whistleblowing on a Private Employer
An employee is protected against retaliation for reporting acts of harassment, discrimination or wage and hours violations under the Florida and federal whistleblower laws. An employer cannot make an adverse job-related decision, such as termination, demotion, pay-cut, transfer to an undesirable shift, rejection of leave requests or other action in retribution for the employee’s filing of a grievance complaint or cooperation with an investigation.
Florida WhistleBlower’s Act
The Florida Whistle-Blower’s Act, codified in Florida Statute §112.3187, protects Florida state employees and contractors from retaliation for exposing gross waste of funds, neglect of duty, mismanagement or legal violations that endanger the public’s health, safety or welfare. A designated whistleblower hotline allows the person reporting the wrongdoing to keep his or her identity confidential, unless disclosure becomes necessary during the investigation. However, the agency is barred from retaliating against the employee or contractor.
Florida False Claims Act
The Florida False Claims Act addresses whistleblowing when the government is the victim, rather than the perpetrator as in the Florida Whistle-Blower’s Act. Florida Statute §68.081 permits whistleblowers to bring a lawsuit on behalf of Florida against a wrongdoer who has defrauded the state government or a local Florida municipality of taxpayer funds. The statute is intended to expose fraud in healthcare, construction, education, housing, food assistance or any other government program or agency.
Federal False Claims Act
The Florida False Claims Act is modeled after the federal statute. Under the federal False Claims Act, whistleblowers can pursue damages on behalf of the U.S. government for fraud at the federal level, such as a scheme for fraudulent payments for Social Security, Medicaid, Veterans benefits or another federal program.
Qui Tam Statutes
Qui tam refers to the means of recovering damages under either the federal or the Florida False Claims Act. The whistleblower is entitled to a percentage of the money the government agency successfully recovers as a result of the information provided by whistleblowers. The information must be original, not publically obtainable information to qualify for a qui tam action.
Learn More About Whistleblower Statutes
Gunterfirm advises businesses and employees on their rights and obligations under the federal and Florida whistleblower statutes. Call our employment and labor law firm at 239.334.7017 or contact us online to learn more at your free initial consultation.