Can whistleblowers sue their employers if they are fired?

What is a whistleblower, exactly?

For those who are unfamiliar with this term, it is bestowed upon courageous, determined individuals who seek to right wrongs against the government perpetuated by private companies in the midst of a contract. However, being a plaintiff in a False Claims Act case or initiating a qui tam case is not easy; especially given the possibility that one might lose their job. 

The possibility of being fired may prevent a number of people from coming forward to expose wrongdoing. After all, these workers may be breadwinners for their families, and if they lose their job, their financial situation could be severely compromised. 

However, there are protections granted to whistleblowers under state and federal law. Specifically, section 3730(h) of the False Claims Act allows an employee who is fired, harassed, demoted or otherwise discriminated against because of lawful acts performed in furtherance of a False Claims Act claim.

Employees who are retaliated against are entitled to seek a number of remedies, including:

Reinstatement – The aggrieved employee would be restored to their former position with all the benefits and salary they previously enjoyed.

Double back pay – This means that any salary the employee would have earned but for their dismissal due to the FCA action would be returned twofold.

Special compensation – This means that affected employees could seek special damages including litigation costs and reasonable attorneys’ fees for bringing such an action.

An employee fired in these situations may also be able to bring state law wrongful discharge claims and even state based discrimination claims based on membership in a protected class.

So yes, an employee who is fired for being a whistleblower can sue their employer.

 

The preceding is not legal advice. 

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