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§112.3187 FS | ADVERSE ACTIONS AGAINST EMPLOYEE FOR DISCLOSING INFORMATION OF SPECIFIED NATURE PROHIBITED; EMPLOYEE REMEDY AND RELIEF

(1) SHORT TITLE. — Sections 112.3187-112.31895 may be cited as the “Whistle-blower’s Act.”
(2) LEGISLATIVE INTENT. — It is the intent of the Legislature to prevent agencies or independent contractors from taking retaliatory action against an employee who reports to an appropriate agency violations of law on the part of a public employer or independent contractor that create a substantial and specific danger to the public’s health, safety, or welfare. It is further the intent of the Legislature to prevent agencies or independent contractors from taking retaliatory action against any person who discloses information to an appropriate agency alleging improper use of governmental office, gross waste of funds, or any other abuse or gross neglect of duty on the part of an agency, public officer, or employee.
(3) DEFINITIONS. — As used in this act, unless otherwise specified, the following words or terms shall have the meanings indicated:
(a) “Agency” means any state, regional, county, local, or municipal government entity, whether executive, judicial, or legislative; any official, officer, department, division, bureau, commission, authority, or political subdivision therein; or any public school, community college, or state university.
(b) “Employee” means a person who performs services for, and under the control and direction of, or contracts with, an agency or independent contractor for wages or other remuneration.
(c) “Adverse personnel action” means the discharge, suspension, transfer, or demotion of any employee or the withholding of bonuses, the reduction in salary or benefits, or any other adverse action taken against an employee within the terms and conditions of employment by an agency or independent contractor.
(d) “Independent contractor” means a person, other than an agency, engaged in any business and who enters into a contract, including a provider agreement, with an agency.
(e) “Gross mismanagement” means a continuous pattern of managerial abuses, wrongful or arbitrary and capricious actions, or fraudulent or criminal conduct which may have a substantial adverse economic impact.

(4) ACTIONS PROHIBITED. —
(a) An agency or independent contractor shall not dismiss, discipline, or take any other adverse personnel action against an employee for disclosing information pursuant to the provisions of this section.
(b) An agency or independent contractor shall not take any adverse action that affects the rights or interests of a person in retaliation for the person’s disclosure of information under this section.
(c) The provisions of this subsection shall not be applicable when an employee or person discloses information known by the employee or person to be false.

(5) NATURE OF INFORMATION DISCLOSED. — The information disclosed under this section must include:
(a) Any violation or suspected violation of any federal, state, or local law, rule, or regulation committed by an employee or agent of an agency or independent contractor which creates and presents a substantial and specific danger to the public’s health, safety, or welfare.
(b) Any act or suspected act of gross mismanagement, malfeasance, misfeasance, gross waste of public funds, suspected or actual Medicaid fraud or abuse, or gross neglect of duty committed by an employee or agent of an agency or independent contractor.

(6) TO WHOM INFORMATION DISCLOSED. — The information disclosed under this section must be disclosed to any agency or federal government entity having the authority to investigate, police, manage, or otherwise remedy the violation or act, including, but not limited to, the Office of the Chief Inspector General, an agency inspector general or the employee designated as agency inspector general under s. 112.3189(1) or inspectors general under s. 20.055, the Florida Commission on Human Relations, and the whistle-blower’s hotline created under s. 112.3189. However, for disclosures concerning a local governmental entity, including any regional, county, or municipal entity, special district, community college district, or school district or any political subdivision of any of the foregoing, the information must be disclosed to a chief executive officer as defined in s. 447.203(9) or other appropriate local official.
(7) EMPLOYEES AND PERSONS PROTECTED. — This section protects employees and persons who disclose information on their own initiative in a written and signed complaint; who are requested to participate in an investigation, hearing, or other inquiry conducted by any agency or federal government entity; who refuse to participate in any adverse action prohibited by this section; or who initiate a complaint through the whistle-blower’s hotline or the hotline of the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit of the Department of Legal Affairs; or employees who file any written complaint to their supervisory officials or employees who submit a complaint to the Chief Inspector General in the Executive Office of the Governor, to the employee designated as agency inspector general under s. 112.3189(1), or to the Florida Commission on Human Relations. The provisions of this section may not be used by a person while he or she is under the care, custody, or control of the state correctional system or, after release from the care, custody, or control of the state correctional system, with respect to circumstances that occurred during any period of incarceration. No remedy or other protection under ss. 112.3187-112.31895 applies to any person who has committed or intentionally participated in committing the violation or suspected violation for which protection under ss. 112.3187-112.31895 is being sought.
(8) REMEDIES. —
(a) Any employee of or applicant for employment with any state agency, as the term “state agency” is defined in s. 216.011, who is discharged, disciplined, or subjected to other adverse personnel action, or denied employment, because he or she engaged in an activity protected by this section may file a complaint, which complaint must be made in accordance with s. 112.31895. Upon receipt of notice from the Florida Commission on Human Relations of termination of the investigation, the complainant may elect to pursue the administrative remedy available under s. 112.31895 or bring a civil action within 180 days after receipt of the notice.
(b) Within 60 days after the action prohibited by this section, any local public employee protected by this section may file a complaint with the appropriate local governmental authority, if that authority has established by ordinance an administrative procedure for handling such complaints or has contracted with the Division of Administrative Hearings under s. 120.65 to conduct hearings under this section. The administrative procedure created by ordinance must provide for the complaint to be heard by a panel of impartial persons appointed by the appropriate local governmental authority. Upon hearing the complaint, the panel must make findings of fact and conclusions of law for a final decision by the local governmental authority. Within 180 days after entry of a final decision by the local governmental authority, the public employee who filed the complaint may bring a civil action in any court of competent jurisdiction. If the local governmental authority has not established an administrative procedure by ordinance or contract, a local public employee may, within 180 days after the action prohibited by this section, bring a civil action in a court of competent jurisdiction. For the purpose of this paragraph, the term “local governmental authority” includes any regional, county, or municipal entity, special district, community college district, or school district or any political subdivision of any of the foregoing.
(c) Any other person protected by this section may, after exhausting all available contractual or administrative remedies, bring a civil action in any court of competent jurisdiction within 180 days after the action prohibited by this section.

(9) RELIEF. — In any action brought under this section, the relief must include the following:
(a) Reinstatement of the employee to the same position held before the adverse action was commenced, or to an equivalent position or reasonable front pay as alternative relief.
(b) Reinstatement of the employee’s full fringe benefits and seniority rights, as appropriate.
(c) Compensation, if appropriate, for lost wages, benefits, or other lost remuneration caused by the adverse action.
(d) Payment of reasonable costs, including attorney’s fees, to a substantially prevailing employee, or to the prevailing employer if the employee filed a frivolous action in bad faith.
(e) Issuance of an injunction, if appropriate, by a court of competent jurisdiction.
(f) Temporary reinstatement to the employee’s former position or to an equivalent position, pending the final outcome on the complaint, if an employee complains of being discharged in retaliation for a protected disclosure and if a court of competent jurisdiction or the Florida Commission on Human Relations, as applicable under s. 112.31895, determines that the disclosure was not made in bad faith or for a wrongful purpose or occurred after an agency’s initiation of a personnel action against the employee which includes documentation of the employee’s violation of a disciplinary standard or performance deficiency. This paragraph does not apply to an employee of a municipality.

(10) DEFENSES. — It shall be an affirmative defense to any action brought pursuant to this section that the adverse action was predicated upon grounds other than, and would have been taken absent, the employee’s or person’s exercise of rights protected by this section.
(11) EXISTING RIGHTS. — Sections 112.3187-112.31895 do not diminish the rights, privileges, or remedies of an employee under any other law or rule or under any collective bargaining agreement or employment contract; however, the election of remedies in s. 447.401 also applies to whistle-blower actions.
History .— ss. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, ch. 86-233; s. 1, ch. 91-285; s. 12, ch. 92-316; s. 1, ch. 93-57; s. 702, ch. 95-147; s. 1, ch. 95-153; s. 15, ch. 96-410; s. 20, ch. 99-333; s. 2, ch. 2002-400.

§112.3188 FS | CONFIDENTIALITY OF INFORMATION GIVEN TO THE CHIEF INSPECTOR GENERAL, INTERNAL AUDITORS, INSPECTORS GENERAL, LOCAL CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICERS, OR OTHER APPROPRIATE LOCAL OFFICIALS

(1) The name or identity of any individual who discloses in good faith to the Chief Inspector General or an agency inspector general, a local chief executive officer, or other appropriate local official information that alleges that an employee or agent of an agency or independent contractor:
(a) Has violated or is suspected of having violated any federal, state, or local law, rule, or regulation, thereby creating and presenting a substantial and specific danger to the public’s health, safety, or welfare; or
(b) Has committed an act of gross mismanagement, malfeasance, misfeasance, gross waste of public funds, or gross neglect of duty may not be disclosed to anyone other than a member of the Chief Inspector General’s, agency inspector general’s, internal auditor’s, local chief executive officer’s, or other appropriate local official’s staff without the written consent of the individual, unless the Chief Inspector General, internal auditor, agency inspector general, local chief executive officer, or other appropriate local official determines that: the disclosure of the individual’s identity is necessary to prevent a substantial and specific danger to the public’s health, safety, or welfare or to prevent the imminent commission of a crime; or the disclosure is unavoidable and absolutely necessary during the course of the audit, evaluation, or investigation.

(2)
(a) Except as specifically authorized by s. 112.3189, all information received by the Chief Inspector General or an agency inspector general or information produced or derived from fact-finding or other investigations conducted by the Florida Commission on Human Relations or the Department of Law Enforcement is confidential and exempt from s. 119.07(1) if the information is being received or derived from allegations as set forth in paragraph (1)(a) or paragraph (1)(b), and an investigation is active.
(b) All information received by a local chief executive officer or appropriate local official or information produced or derived from fact-finding or investigations conducted pursuant to the administrative procedure established by ordinance by a local government as authorized by s. 112.3187(8)(b) is confidential and exempt from s. 119.07(1) and s. 24(a), Art. I of the State Constitution, if the information is being received or derived from allegations as set forth in paragraph (1)(a) or paragraph (1)(b) and an investigation is active.
(c) Information deemed confidential under this section may be disclosed by the Chief Inspector General, agency inspector general, local chief executive officer, or other appropriate local official receiving the information if the recipient determines that the disclosure of the information is absolutely necessary to prevent a substantial and specific danger to the public’s health, safety, or welfare or to prevent the imminent commission of a crime. Information disclosed under this subsection may be disclosed only to persons who are in a position to prevent the danger to the public’s health, safety, or welfare or to prevent the imminent commission of a crime based on the disclosed information.
1. An investigation is active under this section if:
a. It is an ongoing investigation or inquiry or collection of information and evidence and is continuing with a reasonable, good faith anticipation of resolution in the foreseeable future; or
b. All or a portion of the matters under investigation or inquiry are active criminal intelligence information or active criminal investigative information as defined in s. 119.011.

2. Notwithstanding sub-subparagraph 1.a., an investigation ceases to be active when:
a. The written report required under s. 112.3189(9) has been sent by the Chief Inspector General to the recipients named in s. 112.3189(9);
b. It is determined that an investigation is not necessary under s. 112.3189(5); or
c. A final decision has been rendered by the local government or by the Division of Administrative Hearings pursuant to s. 112.3187(8)(b).

3. Notwithstanding paragraphs (a), (b), and this paragraph, information or records received or produced under this section which are otherwise confidential under law or exempt from disclosure under chapter 119 retain their confidentiality or exemption.
4. Any person who willfully and knowingly discloses information or records made confidential under this subsection commits a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.


History. — s. 6, ch. 90-247; s. 1, ch. 91-150; s. 3, ch. 91-285; s. 2, ch. 93-57; s. 1, ch. 95-136; s. 2, ch. 95-153; s. 1, ch. 95-166; ss. 36, 37, ch. 96-406; s. 21, ch. 99-333. 1Note. — As amended by s. 1, ch. 95-166, s. 2, ch. 95-153, and s. 36, ch. 96-406; this version of paragraph (2)(a) was also amended by s. 21, ch. 99-333. For a description of multiple acts in the same session affecting a statutory provision, see preface to the Florida Statutes, “Statutory Construction.” This section was also amended by s. 1, ch. 95-136, and s. 37, ch. 96-406, and that version reads:
112.3188 Confidentiality of information given to the Chief Inspector General and agency inspectors general. —
(1) The identity of any individual who discloses in good faith to the Chief Inspector General or an agency inspector general information that alleges that an employee or agent of an agency or independent contractor has violated or is suspected of having violated any federal, state, or local law, rule, or regulation, thereby creating and presenting a substantial and specific danger to the public’s health, safety, or welfare or has committed or is suspected of having committed an act of gross mismanagement, malfeasance, misfeasance, gross waste of public funds, or gross neglect of duty is exempt from the provisions of s. 119.07(1) and s. 24(a), Art. I of the State Constitution and shall not be disclosed to anyone other than a member of the Chief Inspector General’s or agency inspector general’s staff without the written consent of the individual, unless the Chief Inspector General or agency inspector general determines that:
(a) The disclosure of the individual’s identity is necessary to prevent a substantial and specific danger to the public’s health, safety, or welfare or to prevent the imminent commission of a crime, provided that such information is disclosed only to persons who are in a position to prevent the danger to the public’s health, safety, or welfare or to prevent the imminent commission of a crime;
(b) The disclosure of the individual’s identity is unavoidable and absolutely necessary during the course of the inquiry or investigation; or
(c) The disclosure of the individual’s identity is authorized as a result of the individual consenting in writing to attach general comments signed by such individual to the final report required pursuant to s. 112.3189(6)(b).

(2)
(a) Except as specifically authorized by s. 112.3189 and except as provided in subsection (1), all information received by the Chief Inspector General or an agency inspector general or information produced or derived from fact-finding or other investigations conducted by the Department of Legal Affairs, the Office of the Public Counsel, or the Department of Law Enforcement is confidential and exempt from the provisions of s. 119.07(1) and s. 24(a), Art. I of the State Constitution for an initial period of not more than 30 days during which time a determination is made whether an investigation is required pursuant to s. 112.3189(5)(a) and, if an investigation is determined to be required, until the investigation is closed or ceases to be active. For the purposes of this subsection, an investigation is active while such investigation is being conducted with a reasonable good faith belief that it may lead to the filing of administrative, civil, or criminal charges. An investigation does not cease to be active so long as the Chief Inspector General or the agency inspector general is proceeding with reasonable dispatch and there is a good faith belief that action may be initiated by the Chief Inspector General or agency inspector general or other administrative or law enforcement agency. Except for active criminal intelligence or criminal investigative information as defined in s. 119.011, and except as otherwise provided in this section, all information obtained pursuant to this subsection shall become available to the public when the investigation is closed or ceases to be active. An investigation is closed or ceases to be active when the final report required pursuant to s. 112.3189(9) has been sent by the Chief Inspector General to the recipients specified in s. 112.3189(9)(c).
(b) Information deemed confidential under this subsection may be disclosed by the Chief Inspector General or agency inspector general receiving the information if the Chief Inspector General or agency inspector general determines that the disclosure of the information is absolutely necessary to prevent a substantial and specific danger to the public’s health, safety, or welfare or to prevent the imminent commission of a crime, and such information may be disclosed only to persons who are in a position to prevent the danger to the public’s health, safety, or welfare or to prevent the imminent commission of a crime based on the disclosed information.

(3) Information or records obtained under this section which are otherwise confidential under law or exempt from disclosure shall retain their confidentiality or exemption.
(4) Any person who willfully and knowingly discloses information or records made confidential under this section commits a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.

§112.3189 FS | INVESTIGATIVE PROCEDURES UPON RECEIPT OF WHISTLE-BLOWER INFORMATION FROM CERTAIN STATE EMPLOYEES

(1) This section only applies to the disclosure of information as described in s. 112.3187(5) by an employee or former employee of, or an applicant for employment with, a state agency, as the term “state agency” is defined in s. 216.011, to the Office of the Chief Inspector General of the Executive Office of the Governor or to the agency inspector general. If an agency does not have an inspector general, the head of the state agency, as defined in s. 216.011, shall designate an employee to receive information described in s. 112.3187(5). For purposes of this section and s. 112.3188 only, the employee designated by the head of the state agency shall be deemed an agency inspector general.
(2) To facilitate the receipt of information described in subsection (1), the Chief Inspector General shall maintain an in-state toll-free whistle-blower’s hotline and shall circulate among the various state agencies an advisory for all employees which indicates the existence of the toll-free number and its purpose and provides an address to which written whistle-blower information may be forwarded.
(3) When a person alleges information described in s. 112.3187(5), the Chief Inspector General or agency inspector general actually receiving such information shall within 20 days of receiving such information determine:
(a) Whether the information disclosed is the type of information described in s. 112.3187(5).
(b) Whether the source of the information is a person who is an employee or former employee of, or an applicant for employment with, a state agency, as defined in s. 216.011.
(c) Whether the information actually disclosed demonstrates reasonable cause to suspect that an employee or agent of an agency or independent contractor has violated any federal, state, or local law, rule, or regulation, thereby creating and presenting a substantial and specific danger to the public’s health, safety, or welfare, or has committed an act of gross mismanagement, malfeasance, misfeasance, gross waste of public funds, or gross neglect of duty.

(4) If the Chief Inspector General or agency inspector general under subsection (3) determines that the information disclosed is not the type of information described in s. 112.3187(5), or that the source of the information is not a person who is an employee or former employee of, or an applicant for employment with, a state agency, as defined in s. 216.011, or that the information disclosed does not demonstrate reasonable cause to suspect that an employee or agent of an agency or independent contractor has violated any federal, state, or local law, rule, or regulation, thereby creating and presenting a substantial and specific danger to the public’s health, safety, or welfare, or has committed an act of gross mismanagement, malfeasance, misfeasance, gross waste of public funds, or gross neglect of duty, the Chief Inspector General or agency inspector general shall notify the complainant of such fact and copy and return, upon request of the complainant, any documents and other materials that were provided by the complainant.
(5)
(a) If the Chief Inspector General or agency inspector general under subsection (3) determines that the information disclosed is the type of information described in s. 112.3187(5), that the source of the information is from a person who is an employee or former employee of, or an applicant for employment with, a state agency, as defined in s. 216.011, and that the information disclosed demonstrates reasonable cause to suspect that an employee or agent of an agency or independent contractor has violated any federal, state, or local law, rule, or regulation, thereby creating a substantial and specific danger to the public’s health, safety, or welfare, or has committed an act of gross mismanagement, malfeasance, misfeasance, gross waste of public funds, or gross neglect of duty, the Chief Inspector General or agency inspector general making such determination shall then conduct an investigation, unless the Chief Inspector General or the agency inspector general determines, within 30 days after receiving the allegations from the complainant, that such investigation is unnecessary. For purposes of this subsection, the Chief Inspector General or the agency inspector general shall consider the following factors, but is not limited to only the following factors, when deciding whether the investigation is not necessary:
1. The gravity of the disclosed information compared to the time and expense of an investigation.
2. The potential for an investigation to yield recommendations that will make state government more efficient and effective.
3. The benefit to state government to have a final report on the disclosed information.
4. Whether the alleged whistle-blower information primarily concerns personnel practices that may be investigated under chapter 110.
5. Whether another agency may be conducting an investigation and whether any investigation under this section could be duplicative.
6. The time that has elapsed between the alleged event and the disclosure of the information.

(b) If the Chief Inspector General or agency inspector general determines under paragraph (a) that an investigation is not necessary, the Chief Inspector General or agency inspector general making such determination shall:
1. Copy and return, upon request of the complainant, any documents and other materials provided by the individual who made the disclosure.
2. Inform in writing the head of the state agency for the agency inspector general making the determination that the investigation is not necessary and the individual who made the disclosure of the specific reasons why an investigation is not necessary and why the disclosure will not be further acted on under this section.


(6) The agency inspector general may conduct an investigation pursuant to paragraph (5)(a) only if the person transmitting information to the agency inspector general is an employee or former employee of, or an applicant for employment with, the agency inspector general’s agency. The agency inspector general shall:
(a) Conduct an investigation with respect to the information and any related matters.
(b) Submit to the complainant and the Chief Inspector General, within 60 days after the date on which a determination to conduct an investigation is made under paragraph (5)(a), a final written report that sets forth the agency inspector general’s findings, conclusions, and recommendations, except as provided under subsection (11). The complainant shall be advised in writing by the agency head that the complainant may submit to the Chief Inspector General and agency inspector general comments on the final report within 20 days of the date of the report and that such comments will be attached to the final report.

(7) If the Chief Inspector General decides an investigation should be conducted pursuant to paragraph (5)(a), the Chief Inspector General shall either:
(a) Promptly transmit to the appropriate head of the state agency the information with respect to which the determination to conduct an investigation was made, and such agency head shall conduct an investigation and submit to the Chief Inspector General a final written report that sets forth the agency head’s findings, conclusions, and recommendations; or
(b)
1. Conduct an investigation with respect to the information and any related matters; and
2. Submit to the complainant within 60 days after the date on which a determination to conduct an investigation is made under paragraph (5)(a), a final written report that sets forth the Chief Inspector General’s findings, conclusions, and recommendations, except as provided under subsection (11). The complainant shall be advised in writing by the Chief Inspector General that the complainant may submit to the Chief Inspector General comments on the final report within 20 days of the date of the report and that such comments will be attached to the final report.

(c) The Chief Inspector General may require an agency head to conduct an investigation under paragraph (a) only if the information was transmitted to the Chief Inspector General by:
1. An employee or former employee of, or an applicant for employment with, the agency that the information concerns; or
2. An employee who obtained the information in connection with the performance of the employee’s duties and responsibilities.


(8) Final reports required under this section must be reviewed and signed by the person responsible for conducting the investigation (agency inspector general, agency head, or Chief Inspector General) and must include:
(a) A summary of the information with respect to which the investigation was initiated.
(b) A description of the conduct of the investigation.
(c) A summary of any evidence obtained from the investigation.
(d) A listing of any violation or apparent violation of any law, rule, or regulation.
(e) A description of any action taken or planned as a result of the investigation, such as:
1. A change in an agency rule, regulation, or practice.
2. The restoration of an aggrieved employee.
3. A disciplinary action against an employee.
4. The referral to the Department of Law Enforcement of any evidence of a criminal violation.


(9)
(a) A report required of the agency head under paragraph (7)(a) shall be submitted to the Chief Inspector General and the complainant within 60 days after the agency head receives the complaint from the Chief Inspector General, except as provided under subsection (11). The complainant shall be advised in writing by the agency head that the complainant may submit to the Chief Inspector General comments on the report within 20 days of the date of the report and that such comments will be attached to the final report.
(b) Upon receiving a final report required under this section, the Chief Inspector General shall review the report and determine whether the report contains the information required by subsection (8). If the report does not contain the information required by subsection (8), the Chief Inspector General shall determine why and note the reasons on an addendum to the final report.
(c) The Chief Inspector General shall transmit any final report under this section, any comments provided by the complainant, and any appropriate comments or recommendations by the Chief Inspector General to the Governor, the Legislative Auditing Committee, the investigating agency, and the Chief Financial Officer.
(d) If the Chief Inspector General does not receive the report of the agency head within the time prescribed in paragraph (a), the Chief Inspector General may conduct the investigation in accordance with paragraph (7)(b) or request that another agency inspector general conduct the investigation in accordance with subsection (6) and shall report the complaint to the Governor, to the Joint Legislative Auditing Committee, and to the investigating agency, together with a statement noting the failure of the agency head to file the required report.

(10) For any time period set forth in subsections (3), (6), (7), and (9), such time period may be extended in writing by the Chief Inspector General for good cause shown.
(11) If an investigation under this section produces evidence of a criminal violation, the report shall not be transmitted to the complainant, and the agency head or agency inspector general shall notify the Chief Inspector General and the Department of Law Enforcement.
History .— s. 13, ch. 92-316; s. 3, ch. 93-57; s. 129, ch. 2003-261; s. 17, ch. 2011-34.

§112.31895 FS | INVESTIGATIVE PROCEDURES IN RESPONSE TO PROHIBITED PERSONNEL ACTIONS

(1) COMPLAINT. —
(a) If a disclosure under s. 112.3187 includes or results in alleged retaliation by an employer, the employee or former employee of, or applicant for employment with, a state agency, as defined in s. 216.011, that is so affected may file a complaint alleging a prohibited personnel action, which complaint must be made by filing a written complaint with the Office of the Chief Inspector General in the Executive Office of the Governor or the Florida Commission on Human Relations, no later than 60 days after the prohibited personnel action.
(b) Within 5 working days after receiving a complaint under this section, the office or officer receiving the complaint shall acknowledge receipt of the complaint and provide copies of the complaint and any other preliminary information available concerning the disclosure of information under s. 112.3187 to each of the other parties named in paragraph (a), which parties shall each acknowledge receipt of such copies to the complainant.

(2) FACT FINDING. — The Florida Commission on Human Relations shall:
(a) Receive any allegation of a personnel action prohibited by s. 112.3187, including a proposed or potential action, and conduct informal fact finding regarding any allegation under this section, to the extent necessary to determine whether there are reasonable grounds to believe that a prohibited personnel action under s. 112.3187 has occurred, is occurring, or is to be taken.
(b) Within 180 days after receiving the complaint, provide the agency head and the complainant with a fact-finding report that may include recommendations to the parties or proposed resolution of the complaint. The fact-finding report shall be presumed admissible in any subsequent or related administrative or judicial review.

(3) CORRECTIVE ACTION AND TERMINATION OF INVESTIGATION. —
(a) The Florida Commission on Human Relations, in accordance with this act and for the sole purpose of this act, is empowered to:
1. Receive and investigate complaints from employees alleging retaliation by state agencies, as the term “state agency” is defined in s. 216.011.
2. Protect employees and applicants for employment with such agencies from prohibited personnel practices under s. 112.3187.
3. Petition for stays and petition for corrective actions, including, but not limited to, temporary reinstatement.
4. Recommend disciplinary proceedings pursuant to investigation and appropriate agency rules and procedures.
5. Coordinate with the Chief Inspector General in the Executive Office of the Governor and the Florida Commission on Human Relations to receive, review, and forward to appropriate agencies, legislative entities, or the Department of Law Enforcement disclosures of a violation of any law, rule, or regulation, or disclosures of gross mismanagement, malfeasance, misfeasance, nonfeasance, neglect of duty, or gross waste of public funds.
6. Review rules pertaining to personnel matters issued or proposed by the Department of Management Services, the Public Employees Relations Commission, and other agencies, and, if the Florida Commission on Human Relations finds that any rule or proposed rule, on its face or as implemented, requires the commission of a prohibited personnel practice, provide a written comment to the appropriate agency.
7. Investigate, request assistance from other governmental entities, and, if appropriate, bring actions concerning, allegations of retaliation by state agencies under subparagraph 1.
8. Administer oaths, examine witnesses, take statements, issue subpoenas, order the taking of depositions, order responses to written interrogatories, and make appropriate motions to limit discovery, pursuant to investigations under subparagraph 1.
9. Intervene or otherwise participate, as a matter of right, in any appeal or other proceeding arising under this section before the Public Employees Relations Commission or any other appropriate agency, except that the Florida Commission on Human Relations must comply with the rules of the commission or other agency and may not seek corrective action or intervene in an appeal or other proceeding without the consent of the person protected under ss. 112.3187-112.31895.
10. Conduct an investigation, in the absence of an allegation, to determine whether reasonable grounds exist to believe that a prohibited action or a pattern of prohibited action has occurred, is occurring, or is to be taken.

(b) Within 15 days after receiving a complaint that a person has been discharged from employment allegedly for disclosing protected information under s. 112.3187, the Florida Commission on Human Relations shall review the information and determine whether temporary reinstatement is appropriate under s. 112.3187(9)(f). If the Florida Commission on Human Relations so determines, it shall apply for an expedited order from the appropriate agency or circuit court for the immediate reinstatement of the employee who has been discharged subsequent to the disclosure made under s. 112.3187, pending the issuance of the final order on the complaint.
(c) The Florida Commission on Human Relations shall notify a complainant of the status of the investigation and any action taken at such times as the commission considers appropriate.
(d) If the Florida Commission on Human Relations is unable to conciliate a complaint within 35 days after providing the agency head and complainant with the fact-finding report, the Florida Commission on Human Relations shall terminate the investigation. Upon termination of any investigation, the Florida Commission on Human Relations shall notify the complainant and the agency head of the termination of the investigation, providing a summary of relevant facts found during the investigation and the reasons for terminating the investigation. A written statement under this paragraph is presumed admissible as evidence in any judicial or administrative proceeding but is not admissible without the consent of the complainant.
(e)
1. The Florida Commission on Human Relations may request an agency or circuit court to order a stay, on such terms as the court requires, of any personnel action for 45 days if the Florida Commission on Human Relations determines that reasonable grounds exist to believe that a prohibited personnel action has occurred, is occurring, or is to be taken. The Florida Commission on Human Relations may request that such stay be extended for appropriate periods of time.
2. If, in connection with any investigation, the Florida Commission on Human Relations determines that reasonable grounds exist to believe that a prohibited action has occurred, is occurring, or is to be taken which requires corrective action, the Florida Commission on Human Relations shall report the determination together with any findings or recommendations to the agency head and may report that determination and those findings and recommendations to the Governor and the Chief Financial Officer. The Florida Commission on Human Relations may include in the report recommendations for corrective action to be taken.
3. If, after 35 days, the agency does not implement the recommended action, the Florida Commission on Human Relations shall terminate the investigation and notify the complainant of the right to appeal under subsection (4), or may petition the agency for corrective action under this subsection.
4. If the Florida Commission on Human Relations finds, in consultation with the individual subject to the prohibited action, that the agency has implemented the corrective action, the commission shall file such finding with the agency head, together with any written comments that the individual provides, and terminate the investigation.

(f) If the Florida Commission on Human Relations finds that there are no reasonable grounds to believe that a prohibited personnel action has occurred, is occurring, or is to be taken, the commission shall terminate the investigation.
(g)
1. If, in connection with any investigation under this section, it is determined that reasonable grounds exist to believe that a criminal violation has occurred which has not been previously reported, the Florida Commission on Human Relations shall report this determination to the Department of Law Enforcement and to the state attorney having jurisdiction over the matter.
2. If an alleged criminal violation has been reported, the Florida Commission on Human Relations shall confer with the Department of Law Enforcement and the state attorney before proceeding with the investigation of the prohibited personnel action and may defer the investigation pending completion of the criminal investigation and proceedings. The Florida Commission on Human Relations shall inform the complainant of the decision to defer the investigation and, if appropriate, of the confidentiality of the investigation.

(h) If, in connection with any investigation under this section, the Florida Commission on Human Relations determines that reasonable grounds exist to believe that a violation of a law, rule, or regulation has occurred, other than a criminal violation or a prohibited action under this section, the commission may report such violation to the head of the agency involved. Within 30 days after the agency receives the report, the agency head shall provide to the commission a certification that states that the head of the agency has personally reviewed the report and indicates what action has been or is to be taken and when the action will be completed.
(i) During any investigation under this section, disciplinary action may not be taken against any employee of a state agency, as the term “state agency” is defined in s. 216.011, for reporting an alleged prohibited personnel action that is under investigation, or for reporting any related activity, or against any employee for participating in an investigation without notifying the Florida Commission on Human Relations.
(j) The Florida Commission on Human Relations may also petition for an award of reasonable attorney’s fees and expenses from a state agency, as the term “state agency” is defined in s. 216.011, pursuant to s. 112.3187(9).

(4) RIGHT TO APPEAL. —
(a) Not more than 21 days after receipt of a notice of termination of the investigation from the Florida Commission on Human Relations, the complainant may file, with the Public Employees Relations Commission, a complaint against the employer-agency regarding the alleged prohibited personnel action. The Public Employees Relations Commission shall have jurisdiction over such complaints under ss. 112.3187 and 447.503(4) and (5).
(b) Judicial review of any final order of the commission shall be as provided in s. 120.68.

History. — s. 14, ch. 92-316; s. 4, ch. 93-57; s. 703, ch. 95-147; s. 22, ch. 99-333; s. 130, ch. 2003-261; s. 7, ch. 2020-153.

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