Does Florida Whistleblower Law Protect Employees Who Refuse To Violate The Law?
Having represented retaliation victims for more than twenty years, our whistleblower lawyers in Marion County, Florida know that many employers require their employees to engage in illegal conduct. Under such circumstances, employers present their employees with a Hobbesian choice. If an employee performs an unlawful act and the employer subsequently encounters legal problems because of the unlawful act, the employer will attempt to shield itself from civil liability or criminal jeopardy by blaming the employee. The employer will portray the employee as a “rogue employee,” who acted without the consent or knowledge of the company. If the employee refuses to perform an unlawful act, the company terminates the employee. Under such circumstances, therefore, employees really have no choice at all. In this article, our whistleblower lawyers in Marion County, Florida explain how the decision in Villamizar v. Senior Care Pharmacy Services, Inc., Case No. 24-01737 (E.D. Cal. May 23, 2023) is illustrative of how Florida Whistleblower Law protects employees who refuse to perform an illegal act for their employer.
Florida Whistleblower Law
Florida Whistleblower Law protects employees from retaliation when they object to or refuse to participate in any activity of an employer which violates the law. Thus, employees who complain about their employer’s illegal activities or who refuse to participate in their employer’s illegal activities are protected from retaliation under Florida Whistleblower Law. As the Florida Supreme Court in Arrow Air, Inc. v. Walsh, 645 So.2d 422 (Fla. 1994) explained, Florida Whistleblower Law is “designed to protect private employees who report or refuse to assist employers who violate laws enacted to protect the public.”
In Villamizar, a man named Villamizar brought a whistleblower claim against his former employer, Senior Care Pharmacy Services, Inc. (Senior Care), pursuant to California’s whistleblower law. Just like Florida’s Whistleblower Law, California’s whistleblower law protects employees who complain about their employer’s illegal activities or who refuse to participate in their employer’s illegal activities. Villamizar contends that he was fired in retaliation for complaining about his employer’s alleged illegal activities and for refusing to participate in his employer’s alleged illegal activities.
Villamizar worked for Senior Care at its pharmacy in Fairfield, California. Villamizar claims that he was fired because “he had refused to dispense invalid prescriptions, restock returned medication, and do other illegal conduct, and because he had brought this conduct to the attention of Senior Care.” According to Villamizar, Senior Care was aware that he “had repeatedly complained of Senior Care’s illegal conduct and had discussed his potential involvement with the DEA and Board of Pharmacy.”
Villamizar alleges that he internally complained about various purported illegal activities taking place at Senior Care, including confronting Senior Care’s owner regarding his switching of medications illegally to increase profit and about a co-worker’s alleged swapping of antipsychotic medication for purposes of increasing profit to the company. Two weeks after Villamizar’s complaint to Senior Care’s owner, Senior Care terminated Villamizar’s employment. Senior Care maintains that Villamizar was fired because of reports of harassment by female co-workers and Villamizar’s alleged repeated mediation errors.
Evidence Reflecting Fired For Whistleblower Activity
Senior Care filed a motion with the trial court seeking the dismissal of Villamizar’s whistleblower claim. In moving for dismissal, Senior Care argued that the evidence established Villamizar was fired for non-retaliatory reasons and not because of his whistleblower activity. The trial court denied Senior Care’s motion for dismissal. It ruled that a reasonable jury could find that Villamizar was fired because of his whistleblower activity rather than for those stated non-retaliatory reasons.
In support of its conclusion, the trial court pointed to the short time period between Villamizar’s complaint to the owner and Villamizar’s termination two weeks later. “Given the short period of time between his complaint and his termination,” the trial court reasoned, “a reasonable juror could infer that [Villamizar’s] complaint triggered his subsequent discharge.” With respect to the alleged mediation errors, the trial court observed that Senior Care and Villamizar had presented “competing versions of events,” with “each party pointing the finger at the other as the cause for those medication errors.” Thus, the trial court determined whether Villamizar was responsible for the medication errors and whether the alleged medication errors were the real reason for Villamizar’s termination was an issue for the jury to decide. “As to the complaints about [Villamizar] made by two female co-workers, the trial court determined that a reasonable juror “could find that Senior Care was actually motivated by [Villamizar’s] act of reporting his suspicious to management that these co-workers were engaging in [illegal activities].”
Free Consultation For Whistleblowers
One of the most critical decisions whistleblowers must make is which employment attorneys to consult with regarding their rights as a whistleblower. As part of our commitment to helping whistleblowers, an experienced employment lawyer will speak with you personally and you will receive the individualized attention your case deserves. We offer free confidential case evaluations for whistleblowers, and you will not have to pay to speak with our employment attorneys regarding your rights as a whistleblower. We are available for consultation at your convenience, including scheduling telephone consultations for evenings and weekends.
Marion County Whistleblower Lawyers
Based in Ocala, Florida, and representing workers throughout Florida, our whistleblower attorneys in Marion County, Florida have litigated whistleblower cases in Florida courts for more than twenty years. If you have refused to participate in an employer’s unlawful activities or have questions about your rights as a whistleblower, please contact our office for a free consultation with our whistleblower lawyers in Marion County, Florida. Our employee rights law firm takes whistleblower cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that there are no attorney’s fees incurred unless there is a recovery and our attorney’s fees come solely from the monetary award that you recover.