Thinking of Reporting an Employer’s Illegal Activity? Be Prepared For All Outcomes Before You Do
If you learn of an illegal activity, policy, or practice in your workplace, you may want to prepare yourself for all possible outcomes of the whistleblowing process. In order to protect yourself from legal action for reporting an employer’s illegal activity, you want to ensure that you’re aware of the implications it will have on you or your family, so you aren’t blindsided by the outcome, and it’s important that you not commit any illegal acts while blowing the whistle. While several laws are in place to protect whistleblowers, any type of participating in illegal activity could forfeit your protections.
If you’re looking to report an employer’s illegal activity in Florida, make sure you seek the assistance of an experienced Tampa whistleblowing attorney to assist you with your claim.
What Is Whistleblowing?
Whistleblowing refers to the act of reporting fraudulent or illegal activity in the workplace or in an organization. Usually, the person doing the whistleblowing works for the organization and witnesses the illegal activity. While you as a whistleblower receive protections from Florida law, you need to follow certain steps in order to ensure a successful case.
Florida Whistleblowing Laws
Under the Florida Whistleblower’s Act, whistleblowers receive certain protections after reporting unethical or illegal activity. It is illegal for an employer to fire or retaliate against you if you are a whistleblower, whether you are a public or private employee. If your employer does retaliate, you can file a lawsuit against them for back pay, benefits, lost wages, and other damages you suffered as a result of your whistleblowing action.
If you are a private employee wanting to seek protection under Florida’s whistleblowing law, you must have objected to or refused to participate in an activity, policy, or practice of your employer and experienced retaliation because of your actions.
Prepare Yourself for Whistleblowing
Before you begin the whistleblowing process, you may want to prepare yourself with adequate evidence and documentation. Doing so will help you successfully complete your claim and receive protections.
- Make sure to have legally-obtained evidence that the illegal activity occurred. Gather as much concrete documentation as you can to prove your claim. You can contact an attorney to assist you with this process.
- Gather records that state the following: the locations of incriminating documents and files, names of people involved, and the laws that your employer violated. You will need this information to support your case.
- Only speak to your attorney about the process and keep everything completely confidential. Choose a trusted Florida whistleblowing attorney to best assist you with your case.
- Expect a lengthy process and prepare yourself to wait out any lawsuit or claim. It can take at least a year, possibly longer, for a whistleblowing case to settle.
- Expect backlash for your whistleblowing activities. While it is illegal for a Florida employer to retaliate against you, it is most likely that you will experience backlash.
- Follow all Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards for protection as a whistleblower if you are objecting to, or refusing to participate in, policies, practices, or activities of your employer that are in violation of OSHA’s regulations.
- Never commit any illegal or unethical activity while obtaining your evidence or building your case. This action could lead to less protections for you.
Know About the Doctrine of Unclean Hands
Many whistleblowers fail to receive protection after they have reported the unethical activity because they implicated themselves and committed improper conduct. Some whistleblowers steal or misuse property in order to report the unethical activity. Before you engage in whistleblowing, make sure that your conduct is above scrutiny by the court. This action will protect you from the doctrine of unclean hands.
Some Florida courts will apply this doctrine if you engaged in misconduct directly related to your complaints against the organization. The court will then bar you from legal protections. Make sure not to illegally copy any records, steal any information, or commit any unlawful acts while whistleblowing. For best results and to ensure every action is legal, seek the assistance of a Florida whistleblowing attorney prior to beginning the process. Contact our office to schedule a free initial consultation and case evaluation.