Worker Claims She Was Fired In Retaliation For Blowing The Whistle On Employer
For more than twenty years, our Citrus County, Florida whistleblower lawyers have represented employees who have been fired for blowing the whistle on their employers’ unlawful activities. Through their decades of experience representing whistleblowers, our Inverness, Florida whistleblower attorneys know that employees who learn about their employers’ unlawful activities face the difficult choice of remaining silent or blowing the whistle by reporting, objecting to, or refusing to participate in the unlawful activities. Because whistleblowers put their employment risk, the Florida Whistleblower Law makes it unlawful for employers to retaliate against employees who blow the whistle. As the Florida Supreme Court in Arrow Air, Inc. v. Walsh, 645 So.2d 422 (Fla. 1994) observed, Florida’s Whistleblower Law is “designed to protect private employees who report or refuse to assist employers who violate laws enacted to protect the public.” In this article, our Citrus County, Florida whistleblower attorneys explain how the alleged facts in Kuba v. Disney Financial Services, LLC,Case No. 6:21cv-312 (M.D. Fla. Aug. 24, 2022) illustrates how Florida’s Whistleblower Law protects employees who blow the whistle on their employers’ unlawful activities.
In that case, a woman named Kuba brought a whistleblower claim against her former employer, Disney Financial Services, LLC (DFS), pursuant to the Florida Whistleblower Law. Kuba claims that she was fired for blowing the whistle on the company’s alleged unlawful accounting practices in violation of the Whistleblower Law.
DFS provides financial services to Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, a subsidiary of the Walt Disney Company (Disney). Kuba, a Certified Public Accountant, began working as a Financial Analyst in March 1999. Five years into her tenure, in September 2004, Kuba took on the role of “Code Administrator,” the leader of a “task force” responsible for creating, mapping, and issuing accounting codes—known as “coupon codes” or “charge codes”—for transactions on Disney premises paid for with coupons or prepaid guest packages. Kuba claims that her position as Code Administrator was essential to maintaining internal controls over these noncash media. Nonetheless, the task force was eventually “shut down” in October 2012 and responsibility for administering the codes was dispersed across various teams. According to Kuba, this led to repeated problems because erroneously mapped codes pointed to the wrong accounts and in some cases led to the double-counting of revenue—an issue requiring manual correction.
In 2013, shortly after losing her Code Administrator role, Kuba was promoted to Senior Financial Analyst and placed in charge of the Lodging Team, a group within Revenue Operations that audited and reconciled accounts throughout Disney’s system of hotels and restaurants. Because of her prior experience, many of Kuba’s co-workers continued to rely on her to help set up and troubleshoot codes, and she retained a reputation as an “expert on charge codes.”
On June 19, 2017, Kuba sent an email to the President of the Walt Disney World Resort, Kalogridis, regarding the company’s alleged unlawful accounting practices. The gravamen of Kuba’s complaint was that, by dissolving the role of a centralized “Code Administrator,” and diversifying responsibility for mapping and issuing coupon cods, DFS was left with “no internal controls over the accounting system/accounting flow” of noncash media and therefore was “not in compliance” with federal law. Because of this, Kuba wrote, “Financial Statements will become unreliable, and fraud will be easier to commit.”
A member of Employee Relations, Dye, investigated Kuba’s allegations of unlawful accounting practices. Based on her investigation, Dye concluded that Kuba “did not have a reasonable basis for raising ethical concerns” about her co-workers accounting practices. Dye also found that Kuba “did not articulate a basis for her concern about fraud or ethical violations” and “bypassed other opportunities to address her concerns” before emailing Kalogridis. Based on her conclusions, Dye recommended that Kuba be fired. On September 21, 2017, DSF fired Kuba because her allegations regarding unlawful accounting practices were made in bad faith.
Evidence Of Retaliatory Termination
DSF filed a motion with the trial court seeking dismissal of Kuba’s whistleblower claim. In denying DSF’s motion for dismissal, the trial court focused on DSF’s proffered reason for firing Kuba. The trial court observed that in asserting that Kuba was fired because her allegations regarding unlawful accounting practices in the email to Kalogridis were made in bad faith, “this simply raises the question of whether any of those accusations were protected” by Florida Whistleblower Law because they related to an alleged violation of federal law and, thus, could not be used as a justification for firing Kuba. In other words, the trial court explained, DSF was essentially claiming that it fired Kuba for blowing the whistle, but it was lawfully permitted to do so because Kuba’s whistleblowing was in bad faith. In rejecting DFS’ argument that it an employer is lawfully entitled to retaliate against a whistleblower when it believes the whistleblower was acting in bad faith, the trial court pointed out that DFS had “already stipulated” that Kuba email to Kalogridis was protected by the Florida Whistleblower Law. To allow an employer to “single out” what parts of a complaint protected by Florida Whistleblower Law were made in bad faith to justify an employee’s termination, the trial court reasoned, would “thwart the purpose” of Florida Whistleblower Law.
Citrus County Whistleblower Lawyers
Based in Ocala, Florida and representing workers throughout Florida, our whistleblower attorneys in Citrus County, Florida have fought for the rights of whistleblowers for more than twenty years. If you have been fired for blowing the whistle on an employer or have questions about your rights as a whistleblower, please contact our office for a free consultation with our whistleblower lawyers in Citrus 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.