State and federal laws aim to protect employees who report wrongful conduct by employers. The law wants to encourage people to come forward if they find out about illegal or unsafe behavior. However, the people in the best position to find out about workplace misconduct and report it are also the ones most vulnerable to retaliation from employers. Because of this, whistleblower laws prohibit adverse actions against these employees.
Maybe you just learned about a violation in the workplace and want to report it, or you have already taken action such as filing a complaint with the EEOC. Regardless of where you are in the process, keep in mind that you have legal protections.
Who counts as a whistleblower
Florida law has separate provisions for whistleblowers in the public and private sectors. If you work for a private individual or company, protected activities include reporting or telling the employer you will report a legal violation, cooperating with government investigations of the employer, or refusing to participate in the illegal activity. The violation in question does not have to relate to employment; for example, reporting tax fraud or violations of food preparation rules are likely protected acts.
When it comes to public sector employees who work for government agencies, the law provides more restrictive definitions. The law’s whistleblower protections kick in only if you disclose either a legal violation that results in substantial risk to the public welfare, or gross misconduct concerning public funds.
In general, the disclosure must be in the form of a formal written report to the appropriate agency. In addition, many federal statutes that aim at regulating particular industries and activities include their own whistleblower protections to encourage reporting of violations. The scope of these protections can depend on the specific statute involved.
Adverse action can include termination but also lesser actions such as demotion, denial of opportunities and harassment. Each separate whistleblower statute has its own strict set of deadlines for filing a claim alleging retaliation on this basis. Find out more about your legal rights if you need protection.