Whistleblowers and the Florida False Claims Act
A whistleblower is a person who reports the illegal activity or other misconduct that occurs in the workplace. In the face of whistleblowing, it is unfortunately common for employers to retaliate against their employees. This puts potential whistleblowers between a rock and a hard place: either keep your job, or report the violation. In order to safeguard whistleblowers and penalize fraudulent conduct, Florida established several statutory protections, including the Whistleblower Act and the False Claims Act.
What is the Florida Whistleblower Act?
The Whistleblower Act protects public and private employees from retaliation for reporting legal, safety, or other violations. The Florida Whistleblower Act also protects the ability to claim workers’ compensation in certain situations. Overall, this act prohibits reprisal for exercising employee rights, including but not limited to termination, demotion, pay reduction, and similar disciplinary measures.
What is the Florida False Claims Act?
As part of the False Claims Act, Florida Statute 68.082 prohibits fraudulent activities when dealing with the government. The False Claims Act applies whenever fraudulent activity involves a government official, agency, body, or similar actor. If any person tries to defraud a government actor in Florida of money or property, then they are subject to penalties under the False Claims Act.
There is a key limitation to the False Claims Act in the form of a knowledge requirement. In order for the False Claims Act to apply, the offender must act with intent and awareness. Mere correlation or coincidence does not suffice under the statute. If any person knowingly attempts to defraud the government of money or property, there are potentially severe penalties.
What are the Penalties Under the Florida False Claims Act?
Any person who violates the False Claims Act is subject to several penalties. First, each violation results in a fine of $5,500 to $11,000. This means that each instance of fraud carries the possibility of a steep fine. Second, the court may award up to three times the amount of damage caused for any injuries caused during the violation.
As an incentive for reporting misconduct and other violations, whistleblowers can earn a share of the penalties accrued under the False Claims Act. This arrangement provides added incentive and benefit for whistleblowers, while dissuading fraudulent activity with stiff penalties. That being said, the availability and exact amount of the whistleblower’s share depends entirely on the specific details of their case.
Contact Us Today for Help
If you are a whistleblower thinking about filing a false claims action in Florida, it can be tremendously beneficial to speak with a skilled labor and employment attorney. Based in Miami, Florida, the attorneys at Penichet Law have sophisticated insight in matters of labor and employment law, including whistleblowing and false claims. If you need legal help, contact us today for a consultation.