Florida’s Whistleblower Act protects employees only if they notify their employers of alleged wrongdoing before reporting it to authorities. That way, employers have a chance to correct the problem first.
Whenever you do receive a written complaint, have an action plan in place. Take these steps:
- Train managers and supervisors to promptly forward complaints.
- Acknowledge receipt and tell the whistle-blower you will investigate.
- Handle the complaint under your existing harassment/discrimination policy.
Recent case: Biren Bose, a ship captain for SunCruz Casinos, got angry when an employee went over his head to report a co-worker’s sexual harassment to the HR director.
Bose started to retaliate against her. He tried to discipline her for violating the company’s footwear policy, even though she had a medical accommodation. Next Bose called the U.S. Coast Guard to report the employee’s alleged DUI citation, even though told him to wait until it had investigated.
The company fired Bose and he sued under Florida’s Whistleblower Act, claiming SunCruz fired him for reporting wrongdoing to authorities.
Not so, ruled the court. Florida’s Whistleblower Act protects employees only when they notify their employer in writing of their allegations and then give the employer a chance to correct the problem. Bose’s phone call wasn’t enough. (Bose v. Oceans Casino Cruises, No. 6:05-CV-1771, MD FL, 2006)
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