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In Florida, it is illegal to be fired or retaliated against for bringing a whistleblower action against an employer in Florida. Florida Statute Section 448.102 defines whistleblower activity as an employee who discloses or threatens to disclose law violations to a government agency, testifying in a government investigation into their employer, or refusing to participate in any action that is in violation of any regulation or law.
The purpose of whistleblower protection laws is to prevent employers from intimidating employees from reporting wrongdoing that violates public policies, like perhaps, defrauding customers or the government, damaging the environment or fostering systemic discrimination against minorities.
Most Qui Tam actions (Latin for, “who as well for the king as for himself sues in this matter”) are brought by employees of a company that has defrauded the government. They are confidential actions, brought under seal in Federal Court. Once filed, the United States Attorney’s Office, Department of Justice or other pertinent investigating agency investigates the claims in the suit as well as the evidence against the employer and determines whether there is enough evidence to prosecute the alleged employer for defrauding the government.
Allowing the action to be brought under confidential seal prohibits the employer from knowing who is bringing the claims against them. In theory this should protect the employee bringing the suit since many employees who know of fraud committed by their employers are reluctant to come forward with information about that fraud, for fear of the possible actions an employer might take in retaliation. For example, the employee may have tried to resolve the fraud by internal means within the company, and can be identified as the source of the investigation.
Whittel and Melton regularly represents employees who bring Qui Tam actions against their employers. Usually, though, a whistleblower’s identity will not remain a secret forever. Employers may deduce the identity of the whistleblower from the questions asked during the investigation, or from the subject of the investigation. And, when the action is pursued beyond the investigation stage to litigation, the complaint will be unsealed, and the identity of the person making the complaint will be revealed.
It is against the law to retaliate against an employee for bringing a Qui Tam action against an employer.
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Many statutory whistleblower protection laws (like, Federal and Florida Clean Air Acts, Safe Drinking Water Act, Solid Waste Disposal Act, Toxic Substance Control Act, and Water Pollution Control Act, Energy Reorganization Act, and Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA)) only allow for a short statute of limitations for whistleblower cases. Some limitations periods are little as thirty (30) days.
Time is of the essence: Contact a Florida FLSA Lawyer at Whittel & Melton online now for a free consultation, or call 866-608-5529 to obtain more information about how we can assist you with your whistleblower claim.
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