A Florida whistleblower has received a significant amount of money through a lawsuit against her former employer. The woman, who revealed that an economic development office had inappropriately reported scores of Floridians to area collections agencies, received $250,000 in attorneys’ fees and damages in connection with the employer retaliation case. The woman had sought whistleblower protection for revealing the misdeeds as early as 2012, but she was fired after reporting the unethical practices.
The woman explains that improperly reporting Florida residents to collections agencies could have a significant impact on those victims’ credit scores. The woman’s difficulties began in July 2012, after she found out that nearly 100 Floridians had been inappropriately reported to those collections agencies. Her supervisor told her to ignore the issue, and the woman says that even the governor’s office wanted to drop the matter. After she claimed whistleblower protection, she was placed on administrative leave and then lost her job several months later.
The state argues that the woman was fired because she behaved inappropriately at work. However, in April a jury determined that the woman had been a victim of employer retaliation; she was awarded $50,000 in damages and $200,000 toward attorneys’ fees. Although that decision was made several months ago, the woman only recently took her case to the press. She says the state is continuing to harm Floridians by reporting them unfairly to the collections agencies, and she believes that as many as 19,000 people may have been affected.
Workers who report illegal or unfair practices should not have to worry about retaliation, especially from a state agency. This woman and others like her deserve financial compensation for their loss of income and other civil claims. Florida workers have the right to whistleblower protection, even if they are employed by the government.
Source: Miami Herald, “Whistle-blower on Florida economic agency fraud wins lawsuit,” Kathleen McGrory, June 23, 2014