Fraud is a major problem for every level of government. And the federal government is no exception. The federal government loses billions of dollars annually due to fake financial transactions, false and misleading statements, and bogus claims. The False Claims Act reduces fraud and benefits citizens by empowering them to make qui tam suits.
In a qui tam, or private citizen, lawsuit, an ordinary person files a lawsuit on behalf of the United States government against a private company. If the suit is successful, the citizen-turned-whistleblower enjoys a significant financial reward for their efforts. Many companies will not hesitate to retaliate against these brave whistleblowers. But the False Claims Act also provides crucial legal protections for whistleblowers. To learn more about how the law provides retaliation protection for whistleblowing, contact one of our San Francisco whistleblower lawyers today.
Is Whistleblowing a Crime?
Not at all. Whistleblowers are not criminals. They are heroes that make society better for all of us. The government is well aware of this, so it encourages whistleblowing that reveals fraud through the False Claims Act. In fact, if a private citizen brings a qui tam lawsuit on behalf of the government and is triumphant, the government will give the whistleblower a financial reward. Specifically, the qui tam plaintiff will receive between 15% and 25% of the government’s award if the Department of Justice intervenes in the suit. If the DOJ does not intervene and the plaintiff prosecutes the case alone, they can recover up to 30% of the government’s recovery. The exact amount depends on several factors. But the whistleblower’s share of the recovery can easily total millions of dollars.
Understanding Retaliation Protection for Whistleblowers
Aside from financial compensation, the False Claims Act provides retaliation protection for whistleblowers. This means that employers cannot harm or penalize the whistleblower because of their disclosure. The courts refer to significant acts of retaliation as “adverse actions.” Adverse actions encompass a wide variety of situations. Some of the most common adverse actions include:
- Being fired or demoted;
- Receiving threats or harassment;
- Losing important work tasks or access to certain information;
- Facing workplace discipline, like suspension, reprimands, and counseling;
- Receiving extra work or tasks; and
- Being exposed to demeaning verbal comments (like being called a “snitch” or “rat”).
These are only a few of the more common forms of workplace retaliation against whistleblowers, but there are many others. If you are experiencing what you think is whistleblower retaliation, take action. Contact an experienced whistleblower attorney right away.
Who Does the False Claims Act Consider a Whistleblower?
Any individual or organization that investigates or reports a violation of the False Claim Act is considered a “relator” (or whistleblower) under the Act. The most common whistleblower scenario involves an employee of a private company who makes disclosures about wrongdoing by that company. To qualify for whistleblower protection, the individual needs to report wrongdoing that targets the United States government. Reporting fraud against another private citizen would not count. Fraudulent actions that fall under the False Claims Act include things like:
- Overcharging the government for a product or service;
- Submitting a claim for payment to the government that makes false statements or certifications;
- Providing the government with defective or marginal products and then demanding full payment; or
- Fraudulently applying for a government contract.
An individual aware of actions violating the False Claims Act can initiate a qui tam action in federal court. However, the law does not require that an employee file a False Claims Act to qualify as a whistleblower.
What Do I Have to Prove to Win My Retaliation Case?
To prevail in a False Claims Act case, the qui tam plaintiff must prove three things:
- They engaged in protected activity. Protected activity can include not only reporting a False Claims Act violation but also investigating a potential violation.
- Their employer (or another party) took adverse action against them. As we stated before, “adverse action” is a broad term that includes just about every form of negative workplace action.
- The adverse action was motivated in part or completely by the protected activity. This means you can win your case even if your employer shows it had other reasons for taking action against you besides your protected activity.
If you prevail in your case, you can receive many forms of relief. Potential damages you can recover include back pay, restoration of your position, damages for emotional distress and your reputation, and your legal costs.
Our San Francisco Whistleblower Attorneys Can Give You the Legal Representation You Need
Blowing the whistle is a scary thought for many employees. Yet whistleblowers should never fear retaliation for their brave actions because the law protects them. In fact, a whistleblower can receive significant financial compensation for their disclosures. The law also entitles them to compensation for any losses they suffer because of whistleblower retaliation. But if you are considering filing a qui tam lawsuit or are experiencing whistleblower retaliation, you need legal help. Contacting a qualified and experienced San Francisco whistleblower attorney is crucial to protecting your career and well-being.
Here at King & Siegel, we have an outstanding team of San Francisco whistleblower lawyers dedicated to protecting those courageous souls who become whistleblowers. We recognize that whistleblowers do their country and fellow citizens a tremendous service when they bring fraudulent acts to light. And we believe they deserve nothing but the best legal representation. Our team has many years of legal experience protecting whistleblowers throughout the state. We also have an excellent track record with our clients. Take a moment to learn about some of the amazing successes we’ve had for our clients. Even if you’re unsure about moving forward with a lawyer, contact us today. We provide free and confidential case reviews for all potential clients. You can also reach out to us online.
- The Equal Pay Act,
- Sexual Harassment,
- Medical & Disability Leave,
- Stock Disputes,
- Wrongful Termination,
- Wage & Hour Violations, and
- Workplace Retaliation.