Whistleblowing is the act of reporting your employer to government authorities when you learn it is engaging in illegal, unethical, or harmful conduct. Filing a whistleblower claim is a way to demand accountability from your employer, but it also puts you at risk of being retaliated against for doing what’s right.
However, the law protects you from such retaliation. Under law, you may pursue financial recovery and other legal relief from your employer if they take adverse action against you because you filed a whistleblower claim. Turn to a Tallahassee workplace whistleblower lawyer from Cruz Law Firm, P.A., if you are considering blowing the whistle on your employer or if you were retaliated against after filing a whistleblower report with the authorities.
Our legal team includes attorneys with nearly two decades of experience with the Tallahassee court system. We have tried more than 100 cases before juries in the state and federal courts here, and our work has given us a deep familiarity with the people and institutions that make up the court system. Our attorneys will take the time to share their experience and knowledge with you so that you understand your rights and know what to expect as you pursue a whistleblower or whistleblower retaliation claim.
Contact Cruz Law today to speak with the Tallahassee whistleblower attorneys for information on your legal rights under state and federal whistleblower protection laws. Let us help you better understand your options and explain how we can protect your interests and your right to financial recovery. Initial consultations are confidential and come without obligation.
What Is a Whistleblower Claim?
A whistleblower claim refers to a claim or report by an employee that discloses their employer’s fraud, waste, abuse, corruption, wrongdoing, illegal or unethical activity, or endangering of people’s health and safety. In most cases, a whistleblower will report their employer’s wrongdoing to a government agency or to law enforcement, who may rely on the employee to provide critical testimony and evidence for the government’s investigation.
A whistleblower claim can also refer to a legal claim or lawsuit filed by an employee after they suffer retaliation from their employer due to their whistleblowing activity. The employee can seek financial and legal relief against their employer for losses they suffered due to retaliatory employment decisions, such as denial of promotions or raises, adverse reassignments, or firing.
What to Do if You Suspect Your Employer Is Breaking the Law
You should take the following actions if you believe that your employer is engaged in fraudulent or illegal activity or if you have reported your employer to the authorities and believe you have been retaliated against:
Document all evidence of your employer’s wrongdoing. However, do not take or copy any secured information or documents without consulting with an attorney or a government official. Doing so may constitute a violation of the terms of your employment; in certain circumstances, it could constitute a crime.
Keep copies of emails, text messages, internal messaging system posts, and notes of in-person meetings or phone/video calls.
Gather your employment agreements, employee handbook documents, performance reviews, and pay stubs/income statements.
Speak to a Tallahassee whistleblower attorney from Cruz Law to understand your options for filing a whistleblower claim to report your employer’s wrongdoing.
Report your whistleblower claim to the appropriate government agency or other official in compliance with the statute and do so in writing.
Examples of Whistleblower Claims
So, what exactly qualifies as whistleblowing?
Here are some of the most common whistleblowing actions:
- Reporting an employer’s criminal activity, such as tax evasion
- Reporting an employer for defrauding the government, such as submitting fraudulent claims for reimbursement from government programs like Medicare
- Reporting an employer’s violations of environmental regulations
- Reporting an employer’s violation of safety rules and regulations
- Reporting an employer’s violations of financial regulations
- Reporting an employer’s violations of securities laws and regulations or acts of securities fraud
Too often, employees who make good-faith whistleblower claims find themselves the target of retaliation by their employer.
Common acts of retaliation against whistleblowers include:
- Denial of promotions
- Denial of raises, bonuses, or commissions
- Denial of job or training opportunities
- Withholding or rescinding favorable work opportunities
- Transfers to less desirable positions or duties
- Issuing negative performance reviews or placing an employee on performance-improvement-plans
- Increased job scrutiny
- Imposition of unreasonable or impossible deliverables and deadlines
- Spreading reputation-damaging rumors
- Providing negative recommendations to prospective employers
- Filing civil claims against an employee, such as breach of contract or misappropriation of intellectual property
- Threats of reputational, financial, or physical harm
What Law or Laws Protect Employees in a Florida Whistleblower Claim?
State laws in Florida that protect employees who engage in whistleblowing against their employers include:
- Florida Statutes 448.102 – Florida’s private whistleblower Act
- Florida Statutes 68.081-68.092 – Florida’s False Claims Act
- Florida Statutes 112.3187 – Florida’s Public Whistleblower Act
Numerous federal laws also contain whistleblower protection provisions that protect employees who report violations of the statutes by their employer. These statutes include:
- Affordable Care Act (ACA)
- Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA)
- Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA)
- Clean Air Act (CAA)
- Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA)
- Consumer Financial Protection Act of 2010 (CFPA)
- Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA)
- Criminal Antitrust Anti-Retaliation Act (CAARA)
- Energy Reorganization Act (ERA)
- FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)
- Federal Railroad Safety Act (FRSA)
- Federal Water Pollution Control Act (FWPCA)
- International Safe Container Act (ISCA)
- Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21)
- National Transit Systems Security Act (NTSSA)
- Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act)
- Pipeline Safety Improvement Act (PSIA)
- Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA)
- Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX)
- Seaman’s Protection Act (SPA)
- Solid Waste Disposal Act (SWDA)
- Taxpayer First Act (TFA)
- Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)
- Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century (AIR21)
Another important federal whistleblower law is the Whistleblower Protection Act, which protects employees in Florida, and across the U.S., who report legal or regulatory violations, gross mismanagement, waste of funds, or abuse of authority by federal agencies.
The federal False Claims Act (FCA) allows employees of companies who have contracts with the federal government or receive federal funds to report an employer’s fraudulent activity with federal funds by filing a qui tam lawsuit against their employer. A qui tam lawsuit may be taken up by the U.S. Department of Justice, or the employee may be permitted to continue pursuing the case on their own. In either case, they may be entitled to receive a portion of the judgment or settlement obtained against the employer. The FCA also includes provisions that prohibit whistleblower retaliation by employers.
Types of Damages in a Whistleblower Lawsuit
A whistleblower retaliation lawsuit can help you recover damages and legal relief such as:
- Back pay after being transferred, suspended, or terminated in retaliation for filing a whistleblower claim
- Front pay after being wrongfully terminated or after losing employment opportunities and career advancement
- Legal expenses
- Reinstatement to your former position
- Compensation for emotional distress and suffering
If you file a False Claims Act against your employer, you may also be entitled to recover a fee equal to a portion of the total settlement or judgment obtained against your employer.
How Long Do I Have to File a Claim for ?
Depending on the statute you claim your employer has violated, you may have as few as 30 days or as many as 2 years to file a claim alleging retaliation by your employer for your whistleblower claim. This deadline begins running as soon as you learn of the alleged retaliatory act by your employer, such as demotion, transfer to a less desirable position, denial of promotion or raises, or termination.
False Claims Act lawsuits under federal or Florida state law must be filed within six years after the employer’s fraudulent act, or within three years of the date that facts of the alleged violation were known to government officials but no later than 10 years after the employer’s fraud.
How a Tallahassee Employment Lawyer Can Help in a Whistleblower Claim
Blowing the whistle on your employer’s unlawful or improper activity can be risky. You may face retaliation from your employer for doing the right thing. Turn to a Tallahassee employment lawyer from Cruz Law to protect your whistleblower rights by:
- Helping you gather evidence of your employer’s misconduct or wrongdoing.
- Explaining your legal options for reporting your employer’s conduct to the authorities and ensuring you know what to expect by becoming a whistleblower.
- Representing you in your interactions with government regulators and investigators.
- Pursuing your right to protection from whistleblower retaliation.
- Documenting your expenses and losses if you suffer adverse employment actions after filing a whistleblower claim.
- Preparing and filing your retaliation claim and aggressively fighting for financial recovery and justice, even if that means pursuing a lawsuit against your employer.
Talk to Our Skilled Tallahassee Whistleblower Attorneys Today
Has your employer engaged in unethical, illegal behavior? Are you considering blowing the whistle on them, or are you already in the process of doing so? Our firm can protect your reputation and future if your employer retaliates against you for engaging in protected whistleblowing activity.
We represent workers in Tallahassee, Jacksonville, and across the Florida Panhandle. Contact Cruz Law today for a confidential consultation to learn more about your rights and options.