Who is the Typical Whistleblower?
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If you rely too much on movies for your education, you might think that a whistleblower is someone who discovers deep, dark secrets about corruption and greed. This brave hero then risks life and limb to expose those secrets to the general public and bring the evil corporation crashing down. As exciting as that plot trope may be – and there have been notable cases in history approaching that level of intrigue — there’s typically more fiction than fact in Hollywood’s dramatization of the whistleblower.
In reality, a potential whistleblower normally begins as an employee of either a governmental agency or an independent contractor of a governmental agency. On occasion, such an employee may notice legal or ethical violations, gross mismanagement of public funds, fraud, neglect of duty, or other violations. When that happens, the employee can choose to report what she observed to an agency with authority to investigate and remedy the violations. She may also, in certain circumstances, bring suit against the violator on behalf of the U.S. taxpayers, receiving a portion of the recovery as her reward.
Most employees, however, are understandably worried that reporting such violations may bring negative ramifications at work. They fear termination or at least a lost opportunity for promotion or salary increase once their supervisors discover who reported the violations.
Whistleblower protection laws, like Florida Statutes section 112.3187, were designed specifically to prevent employer retaliation. They protect not only the actual whistleblower who wrote and signed the complaint, but also anyone who assisted the investigation, anyone who refused to participate in retaliating against a whistleblower, and others who may have been involved in the complaint.
When employers retaliate against whistleblowers, whistleblowers must follow very specific steps to obtain relief, and they must be prepared to prove that the action taken against them would not have occurredhad they not reported the violation(s). Once administrative remedies have been exhausted, whistleblowers may also need to seek relief by bringing a civil suit – and the time period is very short to do so. If relief is granted, it may include reinstatement, compensation for lost wages and benefits, court costs and attorney’s fees, and an injunction against further retaliation.
If you have noticed behavior that falls under the False Claims Act, it is important that you consult with an experiencedattorney as soon as possible. Your attorney can help you craft the claim, preserve evidence, and protect yourself against retaliation. If you are a whistleblower who hasalready been retaliated against by your employer, qualified legal counsel can help you obtain a fair remedy. In the Tampa, Florida area, the law firm of Wagner, McLaughlin & Whittemore has experience in handling all types of whistleblower litigation. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.