The Florida Whistleblower Act protects employees, in both the private and public sector, from being terminated or retaliated against for reporting illegal activity. The details of the whistleblower law apply different standards to employees of the government as opposed to employees of private companies, but all employees are generally protected from being fired or treated unfairly for speaking up.
Although this type of action is illegal, unfortunately it still happens in Florida. The board of the Florida State College in Jacksonville suspended an administrator in recent months because of actions that may be protected under the Whistleblower Act.
The administrator was reportedly suspended after she sent a letter to Gov. Rick Scott in March that accused the FSCJ president and his cabinet of withholding disturbing information from the public. The board initially responded by suspending her without pay in April, but this week the board decided to pay her back wages and salary until her contract expires at the end of the month.
The board appears to have suspended her on the grounds of breaking personnel procedure, but the administrator maintains that she is being punished for being a whistleblower. On her blog, she notes that her original letter to the governor was meant to expose wasteful spending as well as unethical and potentially illegal behavior.
The board reportedly decided to simply let her contract expire in order to avoid costly litigation.
Although the board seems to want to put this issue behind them, allowing the administrator’s contract to expire does not mean that an employment dispute will not follow. Depending on the terms of the woman’s employment contract and the details of the case, she may choose to pursue legal recourse for any unfair treatment or wrongful suspension that resulted from actions protected under whistleblower laws.
Whistleblower protections are very complicated and those who think they may have been treated unfairly for exposing wrongdoing are wise to talk to an employment law attorney as soon as possible as there are strict deadlines related to filing whistleblower complaints.
Source: The Florida-Times Union, “FSCJ board votes to pay suspended associate vice president,” Kate Howard Perry, June 5, 2012