There’s a reason why many whistleblowers are ambivalent about alerting the government about fraud and corporate misdeeds committed by their employers. They may be banished to the basement, figuratively and literally.
A 2014 WashingtonPost.com report highlighted the plight of a Veteran’s Affairs (VA) whistleblower whose office was suddenly and inexplicably moved…to the basement, of course. The relocation was made to seem benign on paper; a simple decision to relocate an employee. But the underlying intent was arguably meant to send a message to the employee who spoke out, as well as any other employees who may think about raising concerns.
The primary accusation was that the worker had let her husband (a non VA employee) work on her computer, which was against agency rules. This is likely pretext given that she had complained to the VA’s upper management about an administrator who allowed budget shortfalls and berated subordinates.
Apparently, taking a stand against poor financial management and people skills is punishable by banishment.
The preceding is a prime example of why it is important to have strong legal counsel if you are a whistleblower, or know someone who is planning on disclosing government fraud. Retaliatory moves such as, sudden demotions, reassignments of duties and unsettling relocations could be viewed as evidence of guilt and potentially help a whistleblower’s case. Discriminatory actions could also lead to other legal actions outside of a qui-tam case or FCA claim.
In the meantime, there is an unfortunate and long tradition of exiling whistleblowers to the annals of office spaces. We hope to stem this tradition by holding unscrupulous employers accountable.