Most people may be familiar with the term “whistleblower” but how does it relate to qui tam law? Qui tam means “who as well” in Latin and permits a private citizen who helps the government recover funds through California’s False Claim Act to receive a portion of the recovery. As San Francisco’s go to law firm for qui tam lawsuits, we know that these cases can often be complicated.
Who are Whistleblowers?
Section 1102.5 of the California Labor Code specifically states that an employer cannot prevent an employee from disclosing information to a government or law enforcement official if the employee believes that the employer has violated a state or federal statute, rule or regulation. The employee who discloses this violation is referred to as a whistleblower. Whistleblowers are offered the following protections under the law:
· An employer may not impose any rules or regulations that would prevent an employee from being a whistleblower · An employer may not retaliate against a whistleblower · An employer may not retaliate against an employee for exercising their right as a whistleblower in a previous job · An employer may not retaliate against an employee for their failure to participate in an activity that violates a state or federal statute, rule or regulation
To further encourage employees to disclose certain illegal acts of the employer to the government, The California False Claim Act provides an incentive.
The California False Claim Act and the Qui Tam Provision
Section 12650 through 12656 of the California Government Code is known as the California False Claim Act (CFCA). The CFCA’s main purpose is to protect the California government against certain types of fraud. The CFCA spells out specific “enumerated acts” that if violated, may result in paying the California government three times the amount of damages the California government sustained due to the enumerated act. Some of these “enumerated acts” include:
· Knowingly presenting a false or fraudulent claim for payment or approval · Knowingly making a false statement material to a fraudulent claim · Knowingly misappropriating public property or funds
The CFCA encourages a whistleblower to disclose any information he/she has about an employer’s prohibited activity by allowing the whistleblower to be named a qui tam plaintiff. A qui tam plaintiff is a private individual who files suit against an employer on behalf of the State of California. After the suit is filed, either the Attorney General or other prosecuting authority will investigate the claim and decide whether they want to intervene. If a prosecuting authority intervenes in the action, a qui tam plaintiff may receive up to 33% of the total recovery amount. This percentage is based on how much the qui tam plaintiff contributed to the prosecution. The CFCA also protects a qui tam plaintiff from any retaliation from his/her employer.
If you are an employee who believes you witnessed your employer commit fraud against the California government, call one of our knowledgeable qui tam attorneys today. We have experience in representing whistleblowers in qui tam suits and will help you recover the compensation you deserve.
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