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Fire chief says city broke whistleblower laws by firing him

In Florida, whistleblower statues exist to protect public employees who speak up about possible public safety issues or improper conduct of government officials from being fired. Certainly anyone could see why it would be unfair and even dangerous to fire an employee who is simply looking out for the best interests of his or her city. Unfortunately, some public officials would rather keep a whistleblower quiet than address them in an appropriate manner.

A few years ago, a Florida fire chief was terminated from his position for disagreeing with the city's mayor. After being tasked to determine the best way for the fire department to move forward with operations, the Belleair Bluffs fire chief recommended merging departments with another city. Later on, however, he grew worried that a merger that was not done well could cause safety issues for the city. The mayor, however, wanted to go through with it.

The fire chief emailed the mayor explaining the concerns he had about the merger. In return for expressing concern, the mayor suspended then fired the chief. Like any employee who believes he or she has been wrongfully terminated should consider, the fire chief took legal action and sued the city. Although a first court disagreed with the fire chief's claims, an appeals court ruled in his favor.

Working up the courage to hold an employer accountable for doing something wrong is no easy feat. However, when an employer illegally fires someone for trying to protect other citizens, it should be penalized in some way.

Source: HR.BLR.com, "Was fire chief terminated for whistleblowing?" June 6, 2013

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