A Summary of Florida Whistleblower Laws
The state of Florida strictly follows the employment-at-will doctrine. This means employees can be discharged from work for any reason. However, the state has some exceptions to this doctrine. This includes common law protections and statutory protections. Statutory protections are enacted by the state’s legislature and cover specific subject areas (e.g., workers’ compensation). On the other hand, common law protections are laws that are created in courts to fill the gaps not covered by enacted laws.
This is a summary of Florida Whistleblower Laws, make sure to check out the Federal Whistleblower Laws as well.
Whistleblower Rights in Florida
Common Law Protections
Florida courts do not recognize a public policy exception to the employment-at-will doctrine. Instead, the courts require that any public policy exception to the employment-at-will doctrine should only be derived from the state’s legislature. This means employers cannot discharge an employee for reasons that violate any of the state’s statutes. So, for example, if a statute gives employees the right to workers’ compensation, an employer who terminates an employee in retaliation for exercising such a right may be found guilty of violating the statute.
Public Sector Employees
Employers are prohibited from discharging or carrying out any adverse action against an employee in retaliation for:
- Disclosing a violation of federal and state laws or any other rule or regulation.
- Disclosing acts of gross mismanagement, malfeasance, misfeasance, gross waste of public funds, suspected or actual Medicaid fraud or abuse, or gross neglect of duty.
- Participating in an investigation, hearing, or inquiry related to the violations or acts mentioned above.
- Refusing to participate in any activity outlawed by this statute.
- Initiating a complaint through a whistleblower hotline.
Whistleblowers are required to disclose information to any agency or federal entity that has the authority to investigate, police, manage, or otherwise remedy the violation or act e.g., Office of the Chief Inspector General. Fla. Stat. § 112.3187.
Private Sector Employees
Employers are not allowed to discharge or in any way retaliate against an employee because the employee:
- Disclosed or intends to disclose a violation of state and federal law or any other rule or regulation to the relevant governmental agency.
- Testified or participated in an investigation, hearing, or inquiry related to a violation of a law or regulation by the employer.
- Refused to take part in an activity that violates a law, rule, or regulation.
It is illegal for an employer to discharge or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for filing a workers’ compensation claim or attempting to file a workers’ compensation claim. Fla. Stat. § 440.205.
It is illegal for an employer to discharge or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for exercising the right to receive the minimum wage or:
- Filing a complaint regarding the violation of minimum wage law by the employer.
- Reporting to any person about the employer’s non-compliance with the minimum wage law.
- Assisting any person in asserting his or her minimum wage rights.
Fla. Stat. § 448.109
Whistleblower Hotlines in Florida
To file a complaint under the public employee statute, call the Florida Commission on Human Relations at (850) 488-7082.
Whistleblower Retaliation Claims in Florida
Public Sector Employees
Employees who suffer retaliation related to this statute are required to file a complaint with the appropriate government authority within 60 days of the retaliation. After receiving a final decision from the government authority, the employee can file a lawsuit within 180 days of receiving the decision. Fla. Stat. § 112.3187.
Private Sector Employees
Employees who suffer retaliation for reasons related to this statute can file a lawsuit within 2 years of discovering that retaliatory action had been taken or within 4 years of the retaliation, whichever is earlier. Fla. Stat. § 448.103.
Employees can file a lawsuit after suffering retaliation for reasons related to this statute within 4 years of the retaliatory action.
Employees are required to give their employers 15 days to resolve any minimum wage claims before filing a lawsuit.
Retaliation and Violation Penalties in Florida
Unless stated otherwise by a statute, an employer who violates a statutory law may be ordered by a court to pay different forms of compensation to the employee.
A court may award an employee the following types of relief:
- Reinstatement to the previous job position
- Reinstatement of the employee’s full fringe benefits.
- Compensation for lost wages or benefits
- Covering of court costs and attorney fees
- Issuance of an injunction, if appropriate.
- Temporary reinstatement to previous job position pending a final decision on the complaint.
In addition to the types of relief mentioned above, employers who violate this statute may be liable to pay a fine of $1000 per violation.
Click for an overview of Federal Whistleblower Laws .
More Florida Laws