Employees who report illegal or unethical acts perpetrated by their employers are protected by the Florida Whistleblower Act. The premise of whistleblower protection laws is to prevent retaliation by an employer against an employee who reports violations of the law on the part of the employer. Proving a causal link between the employment action and your whistleblowing is an essential part of any claim.
In order to prove that your employer acted out of retaliation for your whistleblowing, you must be able to effectively establish that your unfair treatment or termination was a result of your disclosure. There are different types of evidence that can be used to establish this causal link, including:
- Direct Evidence—sometimes, there is a piece of hard evidence that establishes a link between your termination and your whistleblowing. For instance, there may be an email between members of the company that states something like “Lisa’s report is going to be a problem for us. We need to get rid of her.” While direct evidence can make your case a strong one, it is generally difficult to come by.
- Circumstantial Evidence—this type of evidence can also be helpful. Circumstantial evidence is something a little less obvious and, therefore, a little more difficult to prove. Verbal statements such as “Lisa’s report has raised a lot of suspicions and placed us under fire” made by the vice-president of the company to the president of the company and overheard by an assistant could constitute circumstantial evidence.
Temporal proximity is the time period between the whistleblowing activity and the adverse action by the employer. Courts are likely to find that an employer who takes adverse action against an employee very close in time to the whistleblowing is guilty of retaliation. This “very close” in time has been interpreted as ranging anywhere from a few days to up to a month after a whistleblowing report is filed. An action taken beyond the one-month period is more of a gray area, and it can be more difficult for an individual to establish a whistleblower claim based on temporal proximity without other evidence.
Contact a Florida Whistleblower Attorney
If you believe you’ve been retaliated against at your job for disclosing information about your employer, you may have a whistleblower claim. Gregg Goldfarb can evaluate your case for free. Contact us online or call us at 305-374-7000 to schedule a free consultation.