We have not addressed the topic of whistleblowers on our blog in quite some time. We acknowledge that being a whistleblower is a tremendously courageous act, because it involves risking one’s livelihood and reputation to expose actions by their employers to defraud the federal government.
As such, zealous employees may not be willing to confront or expose unscrupulous employers. But, under the federal False Claims Act, a number of protections may apply.
Essentially, employers are prohibited from taking any action against an employee who participates (or initiates) a Federal False Claims Act case. This means that an employer may not retaliate by suspending, demoting, reassigning or terminating an employee on the basis of his or her actions in a potential FCA case. To prevail in a retaliation claim, an aggrieved employee must prove the following:
– The employee was participating in an activity protected by Federal False Claims Act in the course of a qui tam action
– The employer had knowledge of the employee’s qui tam action, and
– The employer took actions to retaliate against the protected employee
Employees affected by retaliatory actions are entitled to a number of remedies, including reinstatement to their former position, recovery of seniority or benefits that they may have lost after being terminated or demoted, twice the amount of back pay the employee would have received if not for being terminated, as well as any special damages (i.e. costs, attorney’s fees and punitive damages) that the court may feel necessary to award.
Employees embroiled in these situations can learn more about their rights and options by contacting an experienced employment law attorney.