What is Whistleblowing?
Whistleblower laws exist to protect employees who report illegal or improper conduct committed by employers. This applies to private and public employees across the United States, helping to keep business conduct within established courses of conduct. Without these protections, employers could coerce employees into silence with threats of retaliation or termination. That could lead an employee to participate in and further their employer’s illegal or improper activities.
There is a federal Whistleblower Protection Program operated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The OSH Act of 1970 enables employees to report employers for illegal or improper behavior. This program also addresses a number of adverse retaliatory actions, protecting employees from termination, benefit withholding and many others.
It is important to note, however, that each U.S. state has a unique approach to whistleblowing. The breadth of protection and parameters for reporting differ from state to state. Today we will explore the state-specific approach to whistleblowing in Florida.
How Does Florida Address Whistleblowing?
For the most part, Florida applies at-will employment. This is a two-way street. Employees can leave employers at any time for any reason. Employers can terminate employees at any time for any reason.
There is a significant exception. Neither the employer nor the employee can violate established law in the Florida Statutes. That is where Florida law concerning whistleblowing enters this discussion.
For public employees, Florida Statute 112.3187 lays out the framework for whistleblowing. Under this section, public employers cannot terminate public employees for reporting violations of the law or certain types of “gross mismanagement.” This applies to government agencies and contractors.
For private employees, Florida Statute 448.102 lays out the framework for whistleblowing. Under this section, private employers cannot terminate private employees for reporting violations of a regulation or rule of law. But private employees have a duty to report violations to their employer, enabling an opportunity to correct the issue.
On a somewhat related note, workers’ compensation regulations in Florida Statute 440.205 also offer protection. Employers are not allowed to terminate employees for filing workers’ compensation claims.
Finally, it is worth noting that other whistleblower safeguards exist outside of Florida state law. There are federal protections. And a collective bargaining agreement or employment contract may address the subject of whistleblowing as well.
Do You Have Questions for a Seasoned Employment Attorney?
Whistleblowing is a necessary mechanism to ensure legitimate business operations. But it also carries grave consequences. With the prospect of retaliation or termination, it can be terrifying to consider reporting your employer. Fortunately a seasoned employment attorney can help you navigate toward an effective resolution.
Based in Miami, Florida, Penichet Law features a diverse knowledge of labor and employment law. If you have questions about whistleblowing or other aspects of labor and employment law, please do not hesitate. Contact us as soon as possible. We can answer your questions and help you plan an appropriate strategy.