Pensacola, Florida – A federal judge ruled this week that my client, a planning manager for Walton County, Florida, is entitled to a full jury trial because of his firing after blowing the whistle on his employer, Walton County, Florida. He stumbled across a memo buried deep in county files showing county officials had allowed a real estate developer to avoid huge fees by billing the developer just $614.00 – instead of $614,000.00 – for impact fees. “Impact fees” are paid by companies that build houses to help the community deal with the new development’s “impact” on key services such as schools, parks, roads, fire service and other infrastructure needs.
My client immediately reported the sham transaction. His reporting, in turn, set off a firestorm among Walton County’s management and political class, as well as heavy press coverage. It further triggered a investigation by local criminal prosecutors and the convening of a grand jury. He testified twice before the grand jury and was fired swiftly thereafter on completely bogus grounds.
The federal judge who issued the ruling has advised us that a trial date will be set in the near future.
My client’s experience here is similar to that encountered by many whistleblowers. Your employee handbook says you’ll have complete protection against retaliation if you speak up about wrongdoing. But the real policy in most workplaces is “The nail that sticks out gets the hammer.”
Fortunately, there are state and federal laws that provide powerful protections for whistleblowers. If you are in a situation where you feel compelled to report wrongdoing by your employer, talk to an employee-rights lawyer first. Whistleblower laws are very complex. Reporting the wrong way or to the wrong person can leave you entirely without protection. An expert in employee rights can give you the guidance you need to do the right thing (and to do it the right way).
Employee Rights Lawyer, Florida & Georgia