You’ve witnessed something amiss in your workplace. Whether it is a medical practice routinely upcoding Medicare claims to charge for more expensive procedures than were actually performed, a government contractor cheating the government by providing goods that are inferior to those promised, or another form of overcharging the government, you suspect your employer is committing fraud on the government. You know the right thing to do is report it, perhaps asking questions internally and then turning to outside help if that doesn’t resolve the issue. Still, you are scared. At The Brod Law Firm, our whistleblower’s law firm understands your concerns and we want to assure you that the law does as well. In addition to providing a substantial reward to those who bring fraud cases under the False Claims Act on the government’s behalf, the law includes anti-retaliation provisions and substantial government fraud whistleblower protections. We are committed to ensuring whistleblowers are protected from retaliation because we believe whistleblowers are providing a critical service to the American people.
The False Claims Act: The Role of Private Whistleblowers and the Rules Protecting Them
As long-time readers of this blog know, the False Claims Act (“FCA”) is one of the most powerful tools for fighting fraud on the U.S. government. Chapter 31 Section 3729 of the United States Code makes it illegal for an entity/individual to knowingly make a false claim for payment from the federal government or its agencies, including using a falsified record to support an inappropriate claim. A key part of the subsequent section, 31 U.S.C. §3730, allows private individuals (“relators”) to bring FCA claims on the government’s behalf. The government then has the option of joining the suit (“intervening”) or having the whistleblower proceed with the prosecution. If the relator’s information and efforts lead to the government recovering money, the relator is entitled to between 15 and 30 percent of the recovered funds.
The FCA in §3730(h) also protects relators and potential relators from retaliation by their employer “because of lawful acts done by the employee . . . in furtherance of an [FCA] action.” Note that the language does not actually require the employee to file an FCA suit in order to trigger protection, simply investigating or inquiring internally is generally sufficient to trigger the protection. This provision protects the employee against firing, demotion, suspension, threats, harassment, and any other retaliatory discrimination “in the terms and conditions of employment.” Damages available to someone who brings suit for retaliatory discrimination under this section include reinstatement (at the level the employee would have been absent retaliatory acts), double back pay plus interest, reimbursement for litigation costs, and other appropriate compensation.
A Show of Support for Whistleblower Protections from California’s Legislature
A related development in our home state of California demonstrates just how seriously the government takes whistleblower protection. Effective at the start of 2016, California employers are barred from retaliating against a family member of an employee who engaged in certain forms of protected conduct (AB-1509 Employer liability. (2015-2016)). This is a powerful statement in favor of protecting whistleblowers from retaliation by expanding the legal protections to family members working for the same employer.
Although the law does not explicitly mention suits under the California False Claims Act as a form of protected action, it appears to protect family members in cases where an employee refuses “to participate in an activity that would result in a violation of state or federal statute, or a violation of or noncompliance with a local, state, or federal rule or regulation” or discloses a violation of state or federal law. We would certainly argue that the legislature’s intention is to broaden whistleblower protections and that this should apply to those filing both state and federal FCA claims in California or even raising those same concerns internally.
Partnering with and Protecting Whistleblowers Nationwide
Whistleblowers are doing a public service. They are helping to police individuals and entities and speaking up against wrongs that might be difficult if not impossible to detect from the outside. We are proud to help these individuals fight for justice and protect desperately needed government funds. We are committed to ensuring these brave whistleblowers are protected against retaliation in any form and, when money is recovered, rewarded for their efforts. Our government fraud whistleblowers’ law firm works on cases all across the nation and offers a free consultation to all potential clients. Let us help you help us all.
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(Image of statue of justice by Michael Coghlan)