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Florida Fifth DCA rules that not-for-profit corporation created by hospital special taxing district to provide employee staffing and management services is not an “employer” subject to Florida Private Whistle-blower Act

On February 11, 2022, in Dennison v. Halifax Staffing, Inc., No. 5D20-2201, the Florida Fifth DCA affirmed a trial court summary judgment for the defendant Halifax Staffing, Inc., holding that it was not a private entity subject to Florida’s Private Whistleblower’s Act, Fla. Stat. § 448.102. The plaintiff is a former employee of the defendant, Halifax Staffing, Inc., which is a not-for-profit corporation created by the Halifax Hospital Medical Center taxing district to provide employee staffing and management services to the district. The allegations in the complaint arose out of Dennison’s claim that during his employment the discovered billing discrepancies with respect to services rendered to Medicare/Medicaid patients. Dennison believed the discrepancies were intended to defraud the government and, thus, reported his discovery to his superiors. Dennison alleged that after his report, he was suspended and ultimately terminated. Dennison claimed that by terminating him, Halifax Staffing was retaliating against him for objecting to the billing practices, in violation of Florida’s Private Whistle-blower’s Act. Section 448.101(3) of the Act defines a covered employer as “any private individual, firm, partnership, institution, corporation, or association that employs ten or more persons.” The Fifth DCA agreed with the trial court that Halifax Staffing does not qualify under § 448.101(3) as a “private” corporation because it was created by a public entity for a public purpose, is controlled and fully funded by a public entity, is governed by gubernatorial appointees, and its profits do not inure for the benefit of any private person.