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What Florida law says about whistleblower protection for state workers -- III

In a series of ongoing reports, we've been discussing how those state employees who uncover some manner of dangerous and/or illegal conduct on the part of their employer do have options for reporting their discovery without fear of retaliation (i.e., poor performance reviews, demotion, termination, etc.).

Specifically, we've been discussing how the state Whistleblower's Act provides legal protections to these brave state employees who choose to sound the alarm about fraud and abuse.

In today's post, we'll continue this conversation by examining the type of information that necessitates whistleblowing and the options available to state employees if retaliatory action does occur.

The type of information to be shared on the Whistleblower Hotline

It's important for state employees to understand that the Whistleblower Hotline is not intended to be a forum for suggestions or general complaints, which are perhaps best shared with human resources personnel.

Instead, the hotline is reserved for state employees to report the following:

  • Suspected or actual instances of malfeasance, gross mismanagement, gross waste of public funds, gross neglect of duty, Medicaid fraud/abuse or misfeasance on the part of employees, agencies or independent contractors.
  • Suspected or actual violations of local, state or federal regulations, rules or laws on the part of employees, agencies or independent contractors that create a substantial and specific threat to health, safety and welfare of the public.

The call and the investigation

Those state employees who call to report these matters will speak with an official who will make basic inquiries and take down all pertinent information. From there, the information submitted will be reviewed and a determination made as to how to proceed.

If the decision is made to move ahead with an investigation, it will be undertaken by either the Chief Inspector General or agency inspector general with a final report being submitted to the investigating agency, the Joint Legislative Auditing Committee, the Comptroller and the Governor.

Whistleblowing employees will be kept apprised of significant developments throughout and be given an opportunity to attach comments to the final report.

Options if retaliation is taken

If an adverse personnel action is taken following the decision to blow the whistle on illegal or fraudulent conduct, it's imperative for state employees to understand that they are protected under state law and have multiple options available, including:

  • Filing a formal written complaint with Florida Commission on Human Relations within 60 days of the adverse and illegal personnel action.
  • Bringing a civil action within 180 days of the adverse and illegal personnel action once all contractual or administrative remedies have been exhausted.

Consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible if you believe you were wrongfully terminated for exercising your rights under the Whistleblower's Act and would like to learn more about your options.

Source: Florida Inspectors General, "Whistleblower's hotline," Accessed Nov. 20, 2014

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