False Claims Act “Qui Tam” Whistleblowers
The public depends on whistleblowers to keep government contractors honest. You can be rewarded for blowing the whistle on fraud in connection with government contracts or grants. If you work for a government contractor or a recipient of government funds through Medicare/Medicaid, defense contracts or other programs, and you have information about fraud by your employer or other parties, you can help the government recover the money it is due.
What Incentives are Provided to Whistleblowers by the FCA?
The False Claims Act (FCA) allows whistleblowers to bring lawsuits against companies and individuals who defraud the federal government. Suits under the FCA and similar laws in a number of states are known as “qui tam” actions. A person who brings a successful qui tam lawsuit can receive 15 to 30 percent of the damages the government recovers from the defendants. Over the past two decades, qui tam suits have become important tools that the federal government and a number of states use in combating fraud in the healthcare, defense-contracting, and many other industries.
Click here to learn more about whistleblower protections for employees who report fraud in connection with government contracts or grants. See also the Westlaw Journal, February 2017, Volume 22, Issue 8: Blowing the Whistle on Fraud in the Health Care Industry.
Which Employees Are Protected By The FCA?
The FCA broadly protects employees who investigate or report information in furtherance of possible suits under the Act. The Act’s protection extends to former employees who are subjected to retaliation such as by negative references. The Act does not cover individuals who are independent contractors rather than employees. However, the employer’s classification of an individual as an independent contractor may not control. Depending on the degree of the employer’s control over the individual’s work performance, a court may find the individual to be an employee entitled to protection under the FCA.
What Does The Whistleblower Have To Prove?
A whistleblower in an FCA retaliation case must prove:
- That the employee engaged in protected activity;
- That the employer took adverse action against the employee; and
- That the adverse action was motivated at least in part by the protected activity.
An employee is not required to show that his employer actually made false or fraudulent claims for payment to show that he or she was engaged in protected activity under FCA. By the same token, an employee is not required to initiate a False Claims Act or qui tam case to be protected from retaliation.
An employee is engaged in protected activity if he or she is merely investigating matters that could reasonably lead to a viable, that is meritorious, False Claims Act or qui tam case. An employee who reports such matters to internally to the employer or provides such information to the government will also be protected from retaliation so long as the information could reasonably lead to a viable FCA case.
Although the employee must reasonably believe that the information could lead to a viable suit under the Act, he or she need not necessarily be correct. So long as the employee’s belief is reasonable, the employer may not retaliate even if the employee is ultimately shown to be mistaken.
When Does An Employee Suffer An Adverse Action?
An employee suffers an adverse action when the employee is “discharged, demoted, suspended, threatened, harassed, or in any other manner discriminated against in the terms and conditions of employment” because of his or her protected activity under FCA. Under a standard established by the Supreme Court under other discrimination laws, the prohibition will extend to any action that is “materially adverse”. An action is “materially adverse” if it would dissuade a reasonable employee from investigating or reporting information in furtherance of a possible FCA suit. This would certainly include firings, demotions, cuts in pay or denial of promotions, but it could also include reassignment of job duties and responsibilities, assignment of undesirable shifts, harassment, micromanagement, excessive supervision, or exclusion from important company activities.
What Remedies Are Available To Successful Whistleblowers?
The FCA provides that the employee “shall be entitled to all relief necessary to make the employee whole.” A terminated or demoted employee is entitled to reinstatement to his job with full seniority. He is entitled to double the amount of his back pay plus interest on the back. The law allows him to recover compensation for special damages, in addition to his economic loss, such as emotional damages and damage to reputation. He will be entitled to recover his litigation expenses and reasonable attorney’s fees.
How Do I Decide Whether And How To Report Unlawful Conduct?
Employees face difficult questions in considering whether to blow the whistle as well as in considering when to do so, how and to whom. Whistle-blowing can put a career at risk. On the other hand, conscience and civic duty may weigh heavily in favor. Moreover, as stated above, the FCA also offers substantial incentives to employees and other individuals to provide information which leads to a recovery by or on behalf of the Government.
The decision to blow the whistle in the context of the FCA or otherwise should be made only based on competent legal advice. Employees have achieved success in cases under the FCA in challenging employer retaliation as well as in exposing unlawful fraud on the Government and taxpayers.If you are thinking about reporting such concerns, or if you already have and are facing retaliation, contact the experienced whistleblower lawyers at Katz Banks Kumin for an evaluation of your whistleblower case with no further obligation.
Why Hire Katz Banks Kumin For Your Qui Tam Case?
Katz Banks Kumin, represents qui tam whistleblowers who seek to help the government recover money obtained through fraud in a wide range of industries. While some firms have a narrow focus on qui tam claims, we bring our qui tam clients a broad range of expertise in employment issues too. We stand out with our ability to handle all of our qui tam clients’ employment issues, including related retaliation claims and severance negotiations. If you have information about fraud in connection with government contracts or grants, contact the experienced lawyers at Katz Banks Kumin, to determine whether your information might be the basis for a viable qui tam lawsuit. Your communications with us are confidential, and without cost or further obligation.