If you’re Googling “laws that protect whistleblowers,” chances are good you’ve encountered something not quite right where you work. If you’re wondering whether or not you should do something about it, you’ve taken the right first step: finding out more about what legal protections you have.
The False Claims Act lays out some very explicit protections against retaliation, as well as remediation for parties wronged as a result of filing suit. However, enforcement is not universal, and the very specificity of the laws can leave a lot of other gray areas in which you might be at risk. Here’s a quick overview of what they do (and do not) cover.
False Claims Act Anti-Retaliation Provisions
In general, the FCA statute makes it illegal to retaliate against whistleblowers and individuals who have opposed illegal activities. Specifically, it prevents an employee from being:
- Discriminated against
- Threatened with any or all of the above
To file suit under the retaliation provision, an employee must prove two things:
- He/she engaged in a protected activity (i.e. whistleblowing)
- He/she was discriminated against in one of the manners above as a result of the same protected activity
In general, these are designed to “make the employee whole” as it were. This can include reinstatement (at the same level or status obtained previously); double the amount of back pay and interest owed on back pay; and additional special damages resulting from the discrimination. As part of the damages, you can include all court and attorney fees, as well as additional compensation for duress, suffering and so forth.
Unfortunately, the law around this is not universal, and can be subsumed by state-level legislation that covers the same topic. This variability includes the timeline for filing a retaliation lawsuit. The statute of limitations will depend on the content and provisions contained in a given state’s closest legal equivalent.
What Isn’t Covered Under the Anti-Retaliation Provision
While these protections are all well and good, there are other social and industry ramifications you can sometimes experience. For example, if the lawsuit leads a company to shutter an entire division, or even close their business doors for good, the people who are out of a job might lay the blame at your feet. It’s not fair, but you are likely to lose friends and acquaintances during the process.
Another example is especially appropriate in the defense industry. Because it’s a small, contained group of individuals, most people tend to know one another, and word can travel fast. You may earn an unwarranted reputation as a high-risk hire, making it very difficult for you to get another job within the industry. It’s almost impossible to prove, and yet very likely to occur.
Looking for More Information on Whistleblower Protections?
Find out what you need to know about the laws that protect whistleblowers by calling 770.643.1606.