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"As long as I have any choice, I will stay only in a country where political liberty, toleration, and equality of all citizens before the law are the rule." - Albert Einstein

Florida Whistle-Blower's Act Prohibits Retaliation Against Employees

Posted: August 20, 2009 Filed under: Uncategorized

Florida and federal law do not protect employees from all unfair treatment by their employer. “The law,” sadly, does not provide a right for every wrong. Thus, when an employee experiences an adverse employment action, such as termination or demotion, the employer’s motivation for taking the action must be scrutinized. Only when a prohibited factor motivated the employer’s action is the employer liable to the employee for reinstatement, monetary damages, or other relief.

Florida law offers employees fewer protections than the law of several other states, but one Florida law, the Florida Whistle-Blower’s Act, section 448.102, Florida Statutes, is broader than the name implies and may provide relief to employees who, at first glance, appear to be without a remedy.

An example of such a case appeared today in the Ocala Star-Banner’s online edition. That employee alleges that she was terminated in retaliation for providing information to a governmental agency investigating the deaths of 21 polo horses.

The Act specifically prohibits employers from taking any retaliatory personnel action against an employee because the employee has:

(1) Disclosed, or threatened to disclose, to any appropriate governmental agency, under oath, in writing, an activity, policy, or practice of the employer that is in violation of a law, rule, or regulation. However, this subsection does not apply unless the employee has, in writing, brought the activity, policy, or practice to the attention of a supervisor or the employer and has afforded the employer a reasonable opportunity to correct the activity, policy, or practice.

(2) Provided information to, or testified before, any appropriate governmental agency, person, or entity conducting an investigation, hearing, or inquiry into an alleged violation of a law, rule, or regulation by the employer.

(3) Objected to, or refused to participate in, any activity, policy, or practice of the employer which is in violation of a law, rule, or regulation.

Employers who violate the Whistle-Blower’s Act may be liable for the employee’s attorneys fees, and a court may award the employee:

a) An injunction restraining continued violation of the Act;

(b) Reinstatement to the same position held before the retaliatory personnel action, or to an equivalent position;

(c) Reinstatement of full fringe benefits and seniority rights;

(d) Compensation for lost wages, benefits, and other remuneration; and

(e) Any other compensatory damages allowable at law.

Admitted: Florida, Kansas, New Mexico (inactive)