Disclosing sensitive information about a business or certain practices is something that could get an employee into a lot of trouble. In many cases, they are restricted from doing so by an employment contract or confidentiality agreement; violating these agreements can be grounds for some serious penalties.
However, there are some cases when employers are prohibited from taking any adverse action against an employee. If an employee is a whistleblower, he or she cannot be punished for releasing certain information. However, in order to be protected by whistleblower laws, an employee must be sure that they are, in fact, eligible.
According to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, an employee can be protected as a whistleblower only if certain elements are present. A person must:
- Provide information voluntarily
- Submit information to the SEC whistleblower program or other law enforcement authority, not through the media or other unauthorized outlets
- Report only tips that involve potential federal securities law violations
- Have independent knowledge or analysis of information
If these criteria are met and the reported information leads to a successful SEC action, the employee who submitted the information will be an eligible whistleblower and entitled to monetary award. Additionally, employers may not fire or otherwise retaliate against the employee or they risk certain severe penalties.
Claims made by a whistleblower can shine a very harsh light on employment violations and lead to some serious fallout for employers. However, further violations by an employer, including wrongfully firing a whistleblower, could make the situation even worse.
Whether you are an employee or employer, you should understand the protections in place for whistleblowers in Florida as well as the elements that must exist to make a person eligible for whistleblower status. It can be crucial that you discuss your options and your rights with an attorney before you make any decisions related to whistleblowing.