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Legal protections in place for whistleblowers

In a previous blog post, we discussed the fact that most Florida workers are at-will employees. This means that an employment relationship can generally be terminated at any time and for any or no reason. However, in that post, which can be read here, we also make it clear that there are protections in place to prohibit wrongful termination. 

An employee cannot be fired for an unlawful reason. One such unlawful reason to fire someone is as retaliation for reporting dangerous or illegal policies or conditions in a workplace. In Florida, the statute that prevents this action is called the Whistle-blower's Act.

An employee who reports wrongdoing in the workplace is referred to as a whistleblower. In order to allow workers to file a complaint regarding unsafe conditions or law violations without fear of being penalized, the law prohibits employers from retaliating against these employees. This means that an employee who is considered a whistleblower cannot be demoted, fired or transferred for disclosing certain information.

However, it is important to note that employees must follow strict guidelines to be protected by the whistleblower statute. The information that is disclosed must involve violations of state, federal or local laws and the information must be disclosed to the proper parties. A person may not be protected if, for example, he or she reports alleged violations to the media or other parties that have no authority to resolve or correct the situation.

If a person is fired or otherwise retaliated against after properly disclosing violations, he or she may have grounds to file a wrongful termination lawsuit. 

Employees and employers must understand their rights in order to know what legal options are available in the event of a dispute. Speaking with an attorney can be crucial for people who have questions about whether certain actions are protected by law. 

Source: The Florida Legislature, "Whistle-blower's Act," accessed on Jan. 12, 2015

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