Recently Fired South Florida City Manager Seeking Whistleblower Protections
According to a report from the Miami Herald, the recently-terminated city manager of Opa-Locka, Florida is seeking whistleblower protections. John Pate was terminated by the city council after less than three years on the job. The council members cited “job performance issues” as the motivating factor. Mr. Pate is now seeking protection under Florida’s whistleblower statute.
Mr. Pate contends that he raised complaints internally regarding “malfeasance” by the Vice Mayor of Opa-Locka shortly before he was terminated. All public employees should know their right to make disclosures under Florida law. Here, our Florida IRS whistleblower lawyers highlight three things you should know about your rights under the state’s whistleblower protection statute.
- All Public Employees are Covered By the Florida Whistleblower Act
The Florida Whistleblower Act (Florida State Statutes § 112.3187) strictly prohibits public employers from taking adverse action against an employee because that employee engaged in protected whistleblower activity. The statute covers employees that work for the state government, state agencies, and local governments. The intent of the law is clearly expressed within the statute itself: Protect an employee who comes forward and discloses non-public information related to “improper use of governmental office, gross waste of funds, or any other abuse or gross neglect of duty on the part of an agency, public officer, or employee.”
- Adverse Action is Defined Broadly—Includes Termination and More
Public employers cannot take adverse (unfavorable) personnel action against an employee in retaliation for whistleblowing activity. State law defines adverse action in a relatively broad manner. It is not limited merely to termination. Other forms of adverse action include suspension, demotion, loss of benefits, loss of job opportunities, and harassment.
- Proving Whistleblower Retaliation Can Be Complicated
Whistleblower retaliation cases can be complicated. While state law clearly protects the rights of public employees engaged in whistleblowing activity, it can sometimes be challenging to prove liability on the part of an employer. In order to establish a violation of Florida’s whistleblower statute, a plaintiff must prove the following things:
- They actually engaged in protected whistleblowing activities;
- The employer (supervisor, manager, etc) was aware of the whistleblower disclosures;
- The employee was subject to some form of adverse personnel action; and
- The adverse action was motivated by unlawful retaliatory animus.
The final element is often the most challenging and hotly-contested in whistleblower retaliation cases. The public employer may come up with other, non-retaliatory reasons, for the adverse action. As an example, in the aforementioned case involving the Opa-Locka city manager, the employer cites “performance issues” as the motivating factor. A Florida whistleblower rights lawyer can help.
Speak to Our Florida Whistleblower Protection Attorneys Today
At Guttman, Freidin & Celler, our Florida whistleblower protection lawyers are aggressive, effective advocates for justice. If you or your loved one was terminated or otherwise punished after engaging in legally protected whistleblower activity, we can help. Call us now or send us a direct message for a no cost review of your case. Our firm represents whistleblowers in Florida and nationwide.