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What does it mean to be a whistleblower?

In Florida, as in most other states, laws exist to protect private and public employees who "blow the whistle" on employers who engage in illegal or unethical acts. At the federal level, the Whistleblower Protection Act protects federal government employees from retaliation for reporting dishonest activities within federal agencies.

In essence, a whistleblower is an employee who reports his or her employer for engaging in an activity that is in violation of the law, and in return, the employee is punished by their employer for reporting such activity.

To claim whistleblower protection, a private employee must typically establish the following:

  • The employer took retaliatory personnel action against the employee because he or she disclosed or threatened to disclose to a governmental agency, under oath and in writing, that the employer engaged in unlawful activity
  • That the employee gave notice of the unlawful activity to the employer in writing
  • That the employer was given a chance to correct the unlawful activity

Public employees are afforded similar protections under Florida law, with a couple of key differences: the unlawful activity need only be a suspected violation of law and the disclosure need not be under oath.

If you find yourself in a situation at work where your employer may be engaging in unlawful activity, you owe it to yourself to learn as much as you can about what rights you have as a whistleblower. Don't let an employer put you, or the general public, in harm's way.

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