If you are a state employee who has uncovered evidence of malfeasance or any other harmful activity being committed by a state agency or independent contractor, chances are good that you feel relatively conflicted.
Indeed, while you may be outraged by what you have learned, you may also feel understandably fearful about retaliatory measures potentially being taken against you -- demotion, poor reviews, termination, etc. -- should you decide to report the matter to Florida's Office of the Chief Inspector General.
It's important to understand, however, that not only is this ambivalence perfectly normal, but that you are protected in the event you do decide to report everything you've uncovered.
The Whistleblower's Act, found in sections 112.3187-112.31985 of the Florida Statutes, dictates that state employees who take the initiative to blow the whistle on fraudulent and/or abusive practices within the state government are to be granted legal protection.
Specifically, the Whistleblower's Act prohibits both state agencies and independent contractors from taking retaliatory measures against state employees who do either of the following:
- Report any violation of rules, regulations or laws at the local, state or federal level that create a substantial and specific risk to the health, safety and welfare of the public.
- Report any actions that could be construed as gross neglect of duty, gross waste of funds, or improper use/mismanagement of governmental office
In the context of the Whistleblower's Act, an "agency" includes any municipal, local, county, regional or state governmental entity at the executive, legislative of judicial level, while an "independent contractor" is an entity or person that enters into a contract with an agency.
We'll continue this discussion in future posts.
Whether you work in the public or private sector, it's important to understand that you have options if you believe that you were wrongfully terminated for sounding the alarm on illegal conduct. To learn more, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional.