Are you familiar with the False Claims Act and the law protecting whistleblowers? If not, you should be.
Before you consider filing a qui tam suit, it’s a good idea to understand what the law does and does not cover. This includes additional ramifications you may not have thought of, and for which you have little recourse.
Specific Protections Under the False Claims Act
In 1986, the government added specific employee whistleblower protection to the False Claims Act in order to prevent employers from using the threat of retaliation to keep whistleblowers quiet. It was also meant to assure those aware of fraud that there would be no retaliation in the event they reported it.
These clauses offer protection from all of the following as a direct result of filing a False Claims lawsuit:
- Being fired
- Discriminated against
The exception to these protections is compliance officers and other employees who bear the responsibility for investigating fraud. They must offer a higher degree of proof, including that they threatened the employer with a qui tam lawsuit or other government investigation.
In the event you can prove any of the above in a court of law, you are entitled to compensation and relief. This can include:
- Double back pay
- Special compensation for litigation costs, such as court and attorney fees
- Other damages
Note: State-specific laws that provide different or additional remedies can override protection and relief you might receive in certain states. Also, the statute of limitations for filing a False Claims Act retaliation case is equal to that of that of the state statute that most closely resembles the legislation; it is not universal.
Other Considerations in Filing a Qui Tam Lawsuit
Now that we’ve discussed what is covered, it’s a good idea to talk about what isn’t. This is going to have a major effect on your life. Are you prepared to have your co-workers learn you’re the reason the company is under government investigation? If the answer is no, then reconsider. Even though the original filing of a lawsuit is anonymous, it won’t stay that way forever. If people end up losing jobs or getting fired as a result of your actions, they are going to hold you responsible.
Another area to consider is your industry. Are you prepared to be blacklisted? You should be. While your employer can’t retaliate against you, you might find it extremely uncomfortable to remain at the company for other reasons. But if you work in a highly specialized industry, you may find other companies reluctant to bring you on. Even though you did the right thing, and even though your company was in the wrong, they might fear what you would do if they hired you. You present an unknown risk many won’t be willing to take.
Final Thoughts on Qui Tam Suits
If the ramifications of social responsibility, public health, or your conscience are great enough, you will find these considerations easy to overcome. Alternately, if the size of the payout is large enough, you may not have to worry about working ever again. But if you have even the tiniest bit of hesitation, it’s best to talk things through with your lawyer, crafting a strategy to align best with your goals.
If you’re interested in learning more, contact the skilled attorneys at Bothwell Law Group by calling 770.643.1606, and ask about the law protecting whistleblowers.