It is no secret that employers are not particularly fond of whistleblower laws. These laws not only provide financial incentives for those employees or stakeholders who know of a company’s wrongdoing to come forward, but they also prevent an employer from discouraging whistleblowers through the use or threat of retaliation. Despite the existence of these laws, however, companies may still try to find ways to dissuade potential whistleblowers from making reports to government agencies and/or filing suits under the False Claims Act. That, at least, is what one California company is accused of doing recently.
A (Failed) Preemptive Strike Against Whistleblowers
As opposed to retaliating against employees who had filed whistleblower claims against the company or reported the company’s activities to government authorities, California-based Health Net allegedly tried to accomplish this goal before any claim had been filed. Allegations made against the company state that Health Net made employees sign an agreement in which they acknowledged that they would not receive any severance from the company if they reported the company to a governmental agency and/or participated in a whistleblower lawsuit against the company. In other words, any employee that wished to obtain any sort of severance pay or benefits from the company needed to keep quiet about any illegal or unethical behavior in which they observed the company engaged.