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Florida prison investigators lose appeal in whistleblower case

The Florida Department of Corrections' Inspector General investigators who made many allegations about questionable activities that occurred in our state's prisons in their whistleblower lawsuit have lost an appeal. Those activities allegedly included incidents of inappropriate use of force and suspicious prisoner deaths and were reportedly covered up by the chief inspector general.

A three-page opinion by the 1st District Court of Appeal stated that the group of investigators alleged in court that "they were improperly required by the Department to sign two separate confidentiality agreements or face discipline that could include the termination of their employment." A story in the Miami Herald last month reported that the investigators uncovered the incidents but were forced to sign the agreements. Then the investigators alleged that some of them became victims of a hostile work environment after they relocated. Each one, according to the Miami Herald, had old internal investigations reopened or faced new investigations.

The appeal court's ruling found that the investigators initial brief in the case "never addresses the trial court's rulings regarding the lack of a justiciable controversy or standing." The term "justiciable controversy" is legalese for a matter that is considered "suitable for the courts to hear and decide." A person's standing identifies who is allowed to pursue a lawsuit in court.

It's not known what action the group will take now. Their attorneys didn't comment on the case. For now, it appears that the whistleblowers will need to re-identify their allegations in a manner that the lower court can hear the case again.

It can be frightening for an employee to become a whistleblower. Employees may be subjected to retaliation in the workplace, such as the denial of a promotion, relocation or even wrongful termination. A lawyer experienced in whistleblower cases can provide you with more information on the legal options that are available.

Source: floridapolitics.com, "State prisons investigators lose whistleblower appeal," Jim Rosica, Dec. 28, 2015

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