If you’re trying to decide if you want to be an education fraud whistleblower, you will have questions about how to do it right.
Deciding to become an education fraud whistleblower is a huge decision. By taking the step to report fraudulent activity, an individual exposes himself or herself to retaliation from those who gained from the fraud. Additionally, the process can take a lot of time and require tremendous effort. Calling in an anonymous tip might be easy, but being a whistleblower can involve a lot more than that. Court appearances, answering questions and gathering documents are all things a potential whistleblower might have to do.
This sounds daunting, and it can be. But to be an effective whistleblower while also staying as secure as possible, there are two primary things a person should do.
Keep a Secret
When it comes to staying secure as a whistleblower, secrecy is vital. A principal, school board or dean can’t retaliate if they don’t know who to retaliate against. It’s easy to understand how avoiding confrontation is a lot easier than winning a confrontation.
So why is avoiding retaliation such a big deal? It’s because it can lead to a lot of professional and personal problems. At the bare minimum, retaliation will probably consist of coworkers and supervisors doing everything they can to make a whistleblower’s work life miserable. It might consist of shunning them from teacher’s lounge conversations about the latest episode of a popular television show. Or maybe someone will spit in the whistleblower’s lunch. Those things sound awful, but they are only the minor retaliatory measures that could occur.
More serious retaliation can consist of physical violence, threats, firings, and blacklisting. Losing a job might not be so bad for some whistleblowers. They might not want to continue working for an organization engaging in fraud, especially one that should help children. So getting fired isn’t that big of a deal for those who plan on resigning anyway.
But the worst professional consequence is probably going to involve blacklisting. When this happens, it’s challenging to find a job in the same field or industry. At the very least, the whistleblower should expect to have to move across several counties or states to find another, similar job.
Then there are the threats and potential for physical violence. This is the worst type of retaliation, although it’s usually relatively rare. Considering how bad this retaliation can be, a prospective whistleblower may wonder how to best stay secret. This starts by speaking with an attorney.
The best way to stay secure when serving as a whistleblower is to get the advice of someone who has a lot of knowledge about it. One way to find this person is to consult with an attorney that works in the whistleblower legal field. Whistleblowing is a unique area of law, so it’s common to find attorneys that focus much of their time and energy on only whistleblowing legal cases.
A whistleblower attorney can provide advice on how to become a whistleblower as safely and securely as possible. They will give tips on how to report fraud anonymously and what expectations of secrecy a whistleblower can expect. For instance, if a whistleblower reports fraud and an investigation takes place which results in civil or criminal legal proceedings, then a whistleblower’s identity will come out. The only question is when.
Staying secret forever is very hard to do. One way a whistleblower attorney can help is by making the process as effective as possible. It will be easier for a whistleblower to handle retaliation if they know they will get a financial reward (through a qui tam action) or that blowing the whistle will lead to positive changes.
Professional Advice Is a Must
To achieve either one of these goals, a whistleblower will probably need professional legal advice. For example, to bring a qui tam action, the law actually requires the whistleblower to hire an attorney. This is because, in a qui tam action, the whistleblower is bringing a lawsuit against the person or organization committing the fraud on behalf of the government. Therefore, the consequences of the qui tam action fall on the government (at least in theory), not the whistleblower.
Even if the whistleblower doesn’t care about money or bringing a lawsuit, an attorney is helpful because they can make the act of whistleblowing as worthwhile as possible. They can advise the whistleblower on how to safely and legally gather evidence so the people involved in the fraud can face the consequences in court. The last thing a whistleblower wants to do is expose themselves to retaliation by reporting the scam. They may then have the responsible parties find a way to escape liability because the whistleblower improperly obtained evidence. Or worse, the whistleblower wants to avoid accidentally tipping off the guilty parties in a way that allows them to destroy valuable evidence.
Still Want to Be an Education Fraud Whistleblower?
Learn more about becoming an education fraud whistleblower by contacting our team at Bothwell Law Group online now.