Rules of the School Board of Palm Beach County, Florida
Title 6Gx50
Chapter 3. Personnel

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Policy 3.28Whistleblower Protection Policy

  1. Purpose and Intent. The purpose of this policy is to establish a procedure to provide employees with the protection contemplated by Florida's Public Whistleblower's Act, Sec. 112.3187, Fla. Stat. This Policy shall be known and may be cited as the "Whistleblower's Protection Policy."

    This policy is not a vehicle for protesting a performance evaluation, making a complaint against a fellow employee, or otherwise disputing or disagreeing with management decisions. In such cases, employees must respect and use the established organizational lines of authority, communication and grievance processes. It is the intent of this policy to protect an employee who engages in good faith reporting from reprisal by adverse employment action or other retaliation as a result of having disclosed wrongful conduct, and to provide employees who believe they have been subject to reprisal or false allegations a fair process to seek relief from such acts. Any communication that proves to have been unsubstantiated and made with malice or with knowledge of its falsity is not protected by this policy.

  2. Definitions: As used in this section, the following words or terms shall have the meanings indicated:

    1. "Employee" means any person hired by the School Board after completing the personnel procedures required by the School Board.

    2. "Independent Contractor" means any person other than theSchool Board or its employees, who provides goods and/or services to the School Board pursuant to a contractual agreement, including a provider agreement, with the School Board.

    3. "Adverse personnel action" means the discharge, suspension, transfer, demotion, reprimand, warning, withholding of bonuses, the reduction of salary or benefits, or any other adverse action taken against an employee within the terms and conditions of employment by the School Board.

    4. "Protected disclosure", according to the Florida's Public Whistleblower's Act, is the good faith reporting of:

      1. Any violation or suspected violation of any federal, state, or local law, rule, or regulation, or Board policy or procedure, committed by an employee(s), agent(s) or an independent contractor(s) of the Board which creates and presents a substantial and specific danger to the public's or students' health, safety, or welfare; or

      2. 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, agent or independent contractor of the Board.

    5. "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,

    6. "Whistleblower" means a person or entity making a protected disclosure. A whistleblower may be an employee, students, parents, vendors, contractors, applicants for employment, or the general public who makes a good faith report. The whistleblower's role is as a reporting party. Whistleblowers are not investigators or finders of fact, nor do they determine the appropriate corrective or remedial action that may be warranted.

    7. "Locally Designated Official", for the purposes of this policy, shall mean the Inspector General of the Board who is designated as the official with primary responsibility to receive reports of allegations of whistleblower's conduct.

  3. Policy Statement. The School Board encourages its employees, students, parents, contractors, volunteers and others members of the public, acting in good faith, to report to the Inspector General actions of employees or contractors which constitute suspected or actual violations as outlined in the definition of "protected disclosures" as provided for in Section 2(d) of this policy. If such report concerns the conduct of the Inspector General, it should be filed with the Chair of the School Board and Superintendent.

    1. Neither the School Board, Superintendent, Department Heads, nor Principals, nor any employee shall take or recommend to the School Board to take adverse personnel actions against an employee for disclosing information pursuant to the provisions of this policy.

    2. Employees may not directly or indirectly use or attempt to use the official authority or influence of his or her position or office to interfere with the right of a person to provide information as provided in the definition of "protected disclosure", or intentionally engage in acts of reprisal, retaliation, threats, coercion or similar acts against a person as a result of the person providing, or attempting to provide, such information.

    3. Any person may file a complaint with the Inspector General of any acts meeting the definition of "protected disclosure" as provided herein. Although reports are encouraged to be made in writing so as to assure a clear understanding of the issues raised, reports may be made orally as well as anonymously.

  4. Implementation of a Report Hotline. In addition to accepting written complaints, the Inspector General shall implement a Hotline with a dedicated telephone number and a website for the reporting of complaints. The Hotline is available for any person (both identified and anonymous) wishing to report a protected disclosure as defined herein.

  5. Investigation of Complaints

    1. The Inspector General shall determine issues of timeliness and where warranted, investigate complaints from any person alleging adverse personnel action based upon the reporting of a protected disclosure. Any warranted investigations shall be completed within ninety (90) days of receipt of a complaint and a written report of findings shall be made to the Superintendent. The final report shall include:

      1. A statement of the complaint upon which the investigation was initiated;

      2. A summary of the findings of the investigation;

      3. A listing of any violation of law(s) or other act(s) found which are "protected disclosures" as defined herein;

      4. A listing of recommendations, including but not limited to recommended disciplinary actions; referral to any appropriate law enforcement agency, if it appears that a crime has been committed; or restorations to the employee experiencing an adverse personnel action; and

      5. Any other information the Inspector General determines to be pertinent to the investigation.

    2. An investigation shall be closed when it is determined by the Inspector General that an investigation is complete or that one is not warranted. Upon such determination, the investigation shall provide written notice to the Superintendent and the individual making the disclosure.

    3. Anonymous complaints or reports may be made; however, such complaints or reports must provide sufficient corroborating evidence to justify the commencement of an investigation. Anonymous complaints will be reviewed to determine whether there is a sufficient, factual basis to reasonably suspect that aviolation as outlined in the definition of "protected disclosures" may have occurred.

  6. Superintendent's Decision. Upon the Inspector General's presentation of findings to the Superintendent, the Superintendent shall reach a decision regarding the complaint and shall communicate the decision to the complainant and the person(s) accused of violating this policy.

    1. Exception. If the complaint relates to allegations against an employee who reports to the Board, the Inspector General shall present the findings to the Board and Superintendent.

  7. Protection from Adverse Personnel Action or Retaliation. This policy protects employees and other persons who disclose information on their own volition in a written and signed complaint with the Inspector General, who initiates a complaint through the Inspector General's Hotline, or who are requested to participate in an investigation, hearing or other inquiry conducted by the Superintendent, School Board, state agency or federal government.

    1. Investigation of Employees' Complaints. An employee, whistleblower who believes that she or he has been retaliated against or had adverse action taken against him or her shall file a written complaint with the Office of Inspector General within thirty (30) working days of the alleged retaliation. Any complaint of adverse personnel action or retaliation will be promptly investigated by the Office of Inspector General and receipt of same shall be acknowledged within five (5) business days. If the employee's allegations of adverse personnel action or retaliation are substantiated, appropriate corrective measures shall be taken by the Superintendent, Board or Department Head.

    2. Consequences to Employees Engaging in Adverse Action or Retaliation. An employee who takes adverse personnel action or retaliates against someone who reported a concern in good faith is subject to discipline up to and including termination of employment.

  8. Acting in Good Faith. Anyone making a reporting as provided in this policy must act in good faith and have reasonable grounds for believing the information disclosed is a violation of law or an act as defined herein by "protected disclosure". Thus, this policy does not immunize an employee, volunteer or student from the consequences of his/her own actions, which actions do not constitute reasonable and good faith disclosure of the type of information described herein. Allegations that are not substantiated, yet are made in good faith are not subject to corrective action.

    1. Employee or Volunteer. Any employee or volunteer who knowingly or with reckless disregard for the truth gives false information or knowingly makes a false report of wrongful conduct or a subsequent false report of retaliation will be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination.

    2. Student. Any student who knowingly makes a false report may be subject to the student code of conduct.

  9. Rights of Employees Subject to Adverse Actions. Any employee subject to adverse personnel actions based upon the decision of the Superintendent may take action as provided in this subsection within thirty (30) days of the employee's receipt of the Superintendent's communication. The employee shall:

    1. File a grievance pursuant to the employee's applicable collective bargaining agreement, if the employee is a member of a bargaining unit, or file an action pursuant to Chapter 120, Florida Statutes; or

    2. File an action pursuant to Chapter 120, Florida Statutes, if the employee is not a member of a bargaining unit.

  10. Confidentiality. Protected disclosures and investigatory records will be kept confidential to the extent possible, consistent with the need to conduct an adequate investigation, to provide accused individuals their rights and to comply with the Florida Public Records Act.

STATUTORY AUTHORITY:Fla. Stat. 1001.41, 1001.42, 1012.22, 112.3187
LAWS IMPLEMENTED:Fla. Stat. 1012.22, 120.569, 120.57, 447.401
HISTORY:9/16/92; 12/14/2011