Whistle-blower is a term given to those who step forward to report illegal activity by their employer. The wrongdoing can fall under any number of Florida state laws or federal laws, such as environmental violations or tax fraud, and unfortunately whistle-blowers are often retaliated against or even fired by their employers. There are laws that protect whistle-blowers, however, and there is a course of legal action for those who have been retaliated against.
The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration specifically enforces whistle-blower protections in relation to several whistle-blower laws, including those that relate to workplace safety, consumer products, food safety, public transportation and many more. OSHA has now launched a pilot program that utilizes alternative dispute resolution for the complaints filed under its Whistleblower Protection Program.
Alternative dispute resolution is meant to help employers and employees resolve these disputes in a cooperative and voluntary way. For now, this program is not available in Florida as it is only being piloted in a couple of regions.
However, here in Broward County many employment law attorneys can also resolve various employment disputes with alternative dispute resolution. It is sometimes preferable to litigation because it is less costly and quicker than litigation. However, in some cases where cooperation might be an issue, it may eventually be necessary to move forward with litigation.
It is important that whistle-blowers know that if they suffer unfair or wrongful treatment in the workplace, legal recourse is available. The best and most appropriate route is often reaching a settlement outside of court with the assistance of legal counsel, as this will keep the stress and costs low. It is important, however, to be ready to go to trial if it proves necessary.
Source: United States Department of Labor, "US Department of Labor's OSHA announces alternative dispute resolution for whistleblower complaints," Oct. 12, 2012
Our firm handles whistle-blower and wrongful termination complaints. For more information, visit our Florida Employment Law page.