If we discover our private or public sector employer might have violated state or federal law, we can feel torn. On one hand, we feel morally obligated to report the violation to the appropriate entity. On the other hand, we do not want to get in trouble and possibly lose our job for doing so.
The state of Florida wants to ensure that employees who report their employer’s suspected wrongdoing to the appropriate entity are not treated unfairly by their employer for doing so. Simply put, whistleblowers should not be retaliated against for asserting their right to report illegal or unethical practices in the workplace.
What is retaliation?
Retaliation can take many forms, the most serious of which would be firing the whistleblower. However, whistleblowers also cannot be disciplined, demoted or subject to any other negative decision by their employer because they reported a suspected illegal or unethical activity.
Reporting the violation
It is important to know the order in which you should report a suspected violation to receive whistleblower protection.
You must tell your employer first in writing that you believe there has been a breach of state or federal regulations or law. This gives your employer a chance to remedy the situation internally. After all, the breach could have been an honest mistake, or something easily fixed.
If reporting the violation to your employer does not remedy the situation or results in retaliation, then you can report the suspected violation or retaliation to a legal agency. But if you try to report the suspected violation to a legal agency before reporting it to your employer, you might not be protected by state law from retaliation.
Once the violation is reported, the ball gets rolling on an investigation and possible action moving forward from there. But remember that, while you are protected from retaliation for being a whistleblower, these legal safeguards might not apply if you try to report the incident to an agency before reporting it to your employer.