Articles Tagged with government fraud whistleblowers’ attorney

aidan-bartos-313782-copy-300x200The Whistleblower Protection Act and the California False Claims Act both protect whistleblowers from retaliating employers after they report wrongdoing. Unfortunately, not all employers abide by this law. When they learn an employee has blown the whistle on them, they sometimes terminate that employee. The employee loses his or her income and soon falls upon financial hardship. When this happens, it is important that employees understand they can file a whistleblower retaliation lawsuit against their employee to recover damages. So, what damages are available in a whistleblower retaliation lawsuit? A San Francisco whistleblower lawyer can fully evaluate your claim, but there are three types of damages most common in retaliation lawsuits. 

Back Pay Damages

Back pay provides compensation for any financial losses the employee sustained as a result of the retaliatory action. These damages often include wages, promotions, stock options, vacation pay, and other benefits. The False Claims Act states that employees who are retaliated against are entitled to twice the amount of back pay they have lost. 

rene-bohmer-430927-unsplash-copy-200x300Whether whistleblowers take action under the federal False Claims Act or California False Claims Act, they play a vital role in society. They uncover wrongdoings and hold individuals and companies accountable when they defraud the government. Still, over the years many myths surrounding whistleblowers have developed. Some of these are harmful, and our San Francisco qui tam lawyers want to explain the truth behind them. 

Whistleblowers Report Problems in the Workplace Externally

Whistleblowers who get the most attention have typically reported on something seen in their workplace externally, such as taking the matter to the press. However, not all whistleblowing takes place outside of a workplace or company. Sometimes employees report a problem internally, to their supervisor or manager. These individuals may not consider themselves whistleblowers, but they are, and their role is just as vital. Under California’s whistleblower protection laws, workers are protected from retaliation after blowing the whistle either internally or externally.

lindsay-henwood-7_kRuX1hSXM-unsplash-copy-300x200Sometimes employees notice fraud against the government within their workplace. When they do, they want to do the right thing and put a stop to it, but they’re also afraid to take action. Sometimes this fear stems from the threat of retaliation, and losing their job and income. Other times, it is simply a fear of the unknown. If you have witnessed fraud against the government at your workplace, either under the federal False Claims Act or the California False Claim Act, it is helpful to know the proper steps to take. Understanding what will come next makes it easier to understand how to proceed. 

Collect Evidence

The evidence collected in a qui tam lawsuit is the most important step in a whistleblower claim. Possible evidence could include emails, internal studies, test results, billing records, and anything else that points to the fraud. Wrongdoings that are witnessed first hand are ideal, but not necessary. Solid evidence can back up claims that are not eyewitness accounts, and give your case a better chance of success. 

austin-distel-1555609-unsplash-copy-300x225If you are considering blowing the whistle on your employer’s wrongful actions that are defrauding the government, employment retaliation is a real fear. In fact, it is one of the biggest reasons employees do not come forward and blow the whistle. However, this should never keep you from trying to make things right. You should know you have legal rights that protect you from employer retaliation.

When an employer retaliates against you for whistleblowing, your best option is to file a whistleblower retaliation lawsuit with the California Superior Court. Prior to doing so, however, you may have to file a complaint with a government agency.  

Protection Under Labor Code 1102.5 LC

When qui tam cases under the False Claims Act (FCA) are first filed, they are to remain under seal for 60 days. During this time, the case is secret. The defendant is not even served yet, so it likely does not know there is a suit filed against it unless there are quiet rumblings or leaks. During this 60-day period, the government is given an opportunity to investigate the allegations and decide whether to join the suit or not. Once the government makes its decision, the case is unsealed. In certain instances, this is when the defendant is served. However, in many cases, the seal is partially lifted and the defendant is served prior to the whistleblower case being made public.

The truth of the matter, though, is that a qui tam case is never under seal for just 60 days. The FCA, the government can ask for extensions of the seal period if they can show it is for good cause. This happens regularly and continuously to the point where many qui tam cases remain confidential for years.

How Long Do Qui Tam Cases Remain Under Seal?

scotusThe False Claims Act (“FCA” or “the Act”) is a powerful tool that allows private citizens to play a key role in fighting fraud on the federal government.  As we have reported in previous blog posts, this term the Supreme Court agreed to look at a disagreement among appellate courts regarding the issue known as implied certification.  Our whistleblowers’ law firm is pleased to report that the Court recently released a decision that affirms and strengthens the Act, ensuring it is available to fight a wide range of fraudulent acts.

Background: The Implied Certification Theory and the Escobar Case

As explained in The False Claims Act: A Primer, a guide released by the Department of Justice (“DOJ”), a person violates the FCA when they knowingly submit a false claim for payment to the government, knowingly cause another to submit a false claim, or knowingly create a false record/statement in order to induce the government to pay a false claim.  The Act was originally passed during the Civil War.  It underwent substantial revisions in the 1980s and again in 2009 and 2010.

As a small law firm, we are particularly aware of the many contributions that small businesses and small business owners make to our economy.  In our case, we believe being a small firm allows us to have a more personal touch and collaborate more closely with every client while providing top-notch legal services.  There are also unique challenges to running a small business.  One way that the government recognizes these important contributions and special challenges is by requiring that a certain percentage of federal contracts be awarded to small businesses.  Sadly, some companies attempt to lie to the government and the American people by holding themselves out as small businesses when they truly do not qualify as such.  This a form of fraud.  Our government contract fraud lawyer is dedicated to partnering with honest individuals to protect the integrity of small business set-aside programs and ferret out other forms of fraud on the federal government.

Construction Company Pays $5.4 Million to Settle Government Contract Fraud Allegations

Earlier this month, the Times of San Diego reported that a California-based construction company paid $5.4 million to settle allegations of fraudulent billing for work performed at Camp Pendleton and other military bases.  Harper Construction is a privately held company that earns a substantial share of its revenue through government contracts.  As indcontract2icated in the report, Harper had contracts to construct facilities at the military bases and these contracts specifically required that Harper subcontract a specified portion of the work to small disadvantaged businesses.  These requirements stem from government programs intended to ensure that such businesses receive a fair share of federal contract dollars.  According to the article, Harper stood accused of knowingly using sham companies and falsely certifying that it complied with the small business subcontracting requirements.  Instead of having legitimate small businesses perform the work, the lawsuit alleged that Harper actually passed the work to a large affiliate.

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 justiceindividuals (“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.

Last week, we looked at the recoveries made on behalf of the federal government using the False Claims Act (“FCA”) in 2015.  While informative, those numbers don’t tell the whole story.  Many states have their own versions of the FCA.  These statutes are particularly important in the Medicaid fraud arena since Medicaid is a state and federal partnership so fraud typically involves both federal and state funds.  Today, our government fraud law firm looks at one such statute, Washington’s Medicaid Fraud False Claims Act (“WFCA”).  Each state’s laws are unique, but this review can help readers understand the importance of state claims in this arena.

Washington’s Legislative Auditor Reviews the State False Claims Act, Recommends Reauthorization

In 2015, with the WFCA set to expire on June 30, 2016, the healthcashstate’s Legislative Auditor undertook to study the statute, its results, and recommend or counsel against reauthorization.  As the resulting report (Proposed Final Report issued 12/16/15) explains, government can investigate possible Medicaid fraud via federal (civil and/or criminal) investigations, state criminal investigations, and state civil investigations.  Absent reauthorization, Washington would lose the authority for the final category.  Additionally, if the federal government is investigating a case that also involved fraud on Washington state, the state can only participate in the case and any recovery if it has a state FCA that (like the WFCA) meets certain standards set forth in the federal law.

On a regular basis, we use this blog to discuss health care fraud, government contracts fraud, and a range of related issues that fall under the False Claims Act and similar pieces of legislation.  In a two-part post, our government fraud whistleblower’s law firm is taking a step back to provide a broader look at this important law.  Part One provides a general overview of the law and what it covers while Part Two (to be published in coming weeks) will look at how a suit unfolds and the importance of engaging a knowledgeable False Claims Act lawyer.

In brief, the FCA is a federal law that provides remedies when an individual or entity files a fraudulent bill (the “claim”) with the federal government or one of its agencies. The FCA is not a “gotcha” statute and it does not apply in cases of genuine mistake.  To be covered by the Act, the claim must be made knowingly and with deliberate ignorance or willful disregard for its false nature.  While the FCA only applies to fraud on the federal government, many states have similar laws applicable to fraud on the state government.

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