Contact our Georgia national whistleblower lawyers today. Call us at 770-643-1606

What Are Protections Ensured by the Federal Whistleblowers Act?

federal whistleblowers act

federal whistleblowers actUnder the Federal Whistleblowers Act, individuals who report illegal, fraudulent, or dangerous actions by a defense contractor are protected from retaliation. Furthermore, fraudulent activity by a contractor employed by the United States military is handled differently than other forms of fraud committed against the United States government. Also, the Federal Whistleblowers Act covers protection against retaliation differently.

About Defense Contract Fraud

The defense contracting industry is a multi-billion dollar industry. The potential for wealth as a defense contractor can seem limitless. Therefore, some contractors find themselves tempted to deceive the department of defense. Ultimately, defense contract fraud can take many forms, including:

  • A contractor employed by the department of defense violates any law or rule put in place to govern or guide their actions.
  • A contractor employed by the department of defense severely mismanaged the money allocated to their task. Or, they waste the funds provided to them by the government.
  • Perhaps a contractor abuses the authority given to them by the department of defense.
  • A contractor employed by the department of defense endangers or public health or safety.

The Federal Whistleblowers Act covers all of these situations. The Inspector General of the Department of Defense handles these cases.

What Protections Are in Place for Defense Contract Whistleblowers?

Any individual can report fraudulent activity to the Inspector General. However, he or she must be a private citizen filing a claim under the qui tam provision. Or, they he or she may be an employee of the contractor who is being reported. Hence, the Federal Whistleblower Act provides protection applies to any employee of the United States government who engages in whistleblowing on a defense contractor.

This federal law mandates that employees of the federal government cannot engage in retaliation towards whistleblowers. This law protects civilian employees, military members, and members of the defense intelligence community. In addition, the specifics of the law are as follows:

  • It is illegal to administer any kind of consequence to a government employee who is a whistleblower.
  • Protection of the whistleblower is given top priority. Ultimately, this priority comes before prosecuting those committing the abusive, fraudulent, or wasteful activity.

Are you a government employee with knowledge of improper behavior by a defense contractor? You can report this information to the inspector general. However, to receive the protection you deserve under the Federal Whistleblowers Act, seek out experienced representation from an attorney. If you have been the victim of retaliation because you have reported fraudulent or abusive activity, a whistleblower lawyer can help you seek justice for yourself.

Finally, you can find out what you need to know about the federal whistleblowers act by calling 770.643.1606.

Is There Really Any Protection For Federal Whistleblowers?

protection for federal whistleblowers

protection for federal whistleblowersWhistleblower laws were put into place to protect workers who report health and safety hazards, illegal activity, tax evasion, and certain other actions that go against the public interest. Both the government and general public have a strong interest in encouraging the reporting of these types of activities so that they can be remedied. Therefore, Congress has passed laws providing protection for federal whistleblowers from retaliation.

What Laws Provide Protection for Federal Whistleblowers?

The Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 and Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012 are the main foundation for protection for federal whistleblowers. If an employee reports activities covered under the act to a supervisor or appropriate government agency, they have protection. Termination is not an acceptable response. Neither is a reduction in pay or reassignment to a less desirable position. Your employer cannot reduce your hours or move you to a less desirable shift. Finally, they cannot suffer indirect retaliation such as hostility from management.

Whistleblower protections are also embedded into many federal laws. For example, OSHA provides protection for federal whistleblowers making safety complaints. Presidential Policy Directive 19 protects retaliation related to an employee’s security clearance. Further, securities laws provide protections for workers in the financial industry.

What to Do if an Employer Retaliates

Have you suffered adverse consequences after blowing the whistle? You will have to prove that your employer’s actions stemmed directly or indirectly from your actions as a whistleblower. Protection for Federal whistleblowers does not cover an employee if the adverse action stemmed from unrelated job performance issues or an employer’s operational needs. This gives employers a strong incentive to misrepresent the reasons for any action they took against a whistleblower.

After making a complaint, you should save any written communications with your employer. Also, document the date, time, and nature of any verbal communications. If the employer takes retaliatory action and you made a complaint to a government agency, they will usually have a process for opening an investigation into the retaliation.

You may wish to receive financial compensation for lost wages or other economic losses as a result of the retaliation. Hence, you may need to file a private lawsuit against the employer. You will need to prove that you engaged in protected whistleblower activity. Also, you will need to prove your employer’s discriminatory motive. However, your employer can also introduce their own evidence. It’s important to understand that even if you believe you are clearly entitled to compensation, this is a long and difficult process. Therefore it can be difficult to navigate what lies ahead without the assistance of an experienced attorney.

Have you been the victim of illegal retaliation? Do you want to learn more about the protections that may be available to you? Contact Bothwell Law Group to schedule a consultation.

Can I File a Qui Tam Lawsuit Anonymously?

Can I File a Qui Tam Lawsuit Anonymously

Can I File a Qui Tam Lawsuit AnonymouslyA whistleblower may ask himself “can I file a qui tam lawsuit anonymously”. In fact, the whistleblower must do so, at least at the beginning of the case. The real issue is how strong the anonymity is, and how long it will stay in place. There is no absolute answer to these two questions.  However, there are some general concepts you can keep in mind when deciding whether to begin a qui tam lawsuit.

What Are the Anonymous Protections Provided by the False Claims Act?

To begin a qui tam action under the False Claims Act, the relator must file the complaint “under seal”. This means the relator files the complaint with the court in secret. The only people who know are the court itself, the relator and the US government.

Unlike the typical civil case where the plaintiff will serve a copy of the complaint on the defendant, the relator (who is effectively the plaintiff) only serves a copy of the complaint on the US government. This is to make them aware of the qui tam action and allow them to investigate the allegations.

Both the government and relator must honor the seal and not divulge the existence of the qui tam action to anyone (except the relator’s attorney, of course). Therefore, at this stage of the qui tam process, the relator’s anonymity should be secure. However, employers and organizations may connect the dots in situations where they become the target of a government investigation into areas or things that only a few people know. As a result, it can sometimes be easy to piece things together and figure out who might be the whistleblower.

Length of Time a Qui Tam Case Is Under Seal

Another thing to know about the qui tam case under seal: the False Claims Act only guarantees the case will be under seal for 60 days. Once this 60 day period passes, there is an option to lift the seal. Depending on the investigation progress, the government can choose to extend the seal, but there’s no guarantee it will. It is the government, not the relator, who decides whether to lift the seal and when.

Assuming the relator’s anonymity still exists during this initial phase, after the US government completes its investigation, the qui tam lawsuit will no longer be under seal. While this may not explicitly reveal the relator’s identity, most defendants can figure it out when the qui tam action goes public.

At the very least, the defendant will probably learn of the relator’s identity at trial. This is because the relator may prosecute the qui tam action themselves or provide a great deal of assistance to the government’s prosecution of the qui tam action (should the government choose to intervene and join the case).

Can Anonymity Exist If the Relator Decides to Drop the Qui Tam Lawsuit?

After the US government investigates the alleged fraud, it will decide whether to intervene or join the qui tam action. If the US government decides not to join the case, it can drastically reduce the chances of the relator winning the qui tam action. The relator no longer has the full backing of the US government. This effectively admits the case is weak; otherwise, the US government would only join a case that held promise. So when the government concludes it will not join the relator, the whistleblower will sometimes choose to end the qui tam action. However, even though the case may be over, it will no longer be under seal. This means the defendant is likely going to find out who the relator is.

A relator may ask the court to dismiss the qui tam action, but keep it under seal. The court is rarely known to agree to this request since court documents are public record. Any request to keep court documents confidential has a high burden to overcome. However, if the relator can show there have been specific threats (such as the defendant’s CEO telling the entire company that once they find out who the whistleblower is, they will fire them, blacklist them and ruin their family members), then the court may decide to maintain the seal.

Are There Any Protections for Relators?

Essentially, the anonymity protections provided by the False Claims Act are not perfect. Sooner or later, the defendant will learn who the relator is. To deal with these situations, the False Claims Act has an anti-retaliation provision. This prohibits an employer from firing, demoting, threatening, harassing or otherwise discriminating against the relator. If retaliation takes place, the relator may receive reinstatement of their job, back pay, special damages, interest and attorneys’ fees.

Contact Us if You Have Any Questions about Becoming a Relator

Still asking yourself “can I file a Qui Tam lawsuit anonymously”? Find out more about filing a qui tam lawsuit anonymously by contacting our team at Bothwell Law Group.

What Are the Whistleblower Protection Provisions in the False Claims Act?

whistleblower protection provisions in the false claims act

whistleblower protection provisions in the false claims actThe whistleblower protection provisions in the False Claims Act make it easier and safer for individuals to come forward to provide evidence of fraud against the federal government. When a whistleblower comes forward, it is almost certain that those responsible for defrauding the government will try to retaliate against them. Several provisions are in place to help reduce the chances of this occurring.

Whistleblower Protection: Anonymity

The most effective protection for a whistleblower is to maintain anonymity. It’s logical that if the identity of an employee who has decided to be a whistleblower is unknown, the employer cannot retaliate against them. However, this anonymity is difficult to maintain. If an individual decides to blow the whistle, it will be practically impossible to keep this anonymity if the lawsuit goes to trial or settlement.

The False Claims Act does not have the strongest provisions for protecting a whistleblower’s identity. Other whistleblower statutes, such as those designed to help the US Securities and Exchange Commission, are more effective at protecting the whistleblower’s identity. However, the False Claims Act requires certain procedures in a whistleblower lawsuit which can help maintain the anonymity of the whistleblower for as long as possible.

First, the False Claims Act requires that the lawsuit begin by filing the complaint under seal. This means filing the complaint with the court in secret to keep it hidden from the public for a certain period of time. This will be at least 60 days while the federal government investigates the alleged fraud and decides whether it will join in the lawsuit. Most of the time, the government will want more than 60 days to do this investigation and can get extensions that can make the process lasts for many months or years. During this investigatory period, the whistleblower should be able to maintain anonymity.

After this investigator period ends, the identity of the whistleblower may no longer remain secret if the federal government or whistleblower decides to continue the lawsuit against the defendant (the alleged False Claims Act violator). But if the government and the whistleblower decide not to continue with the lawsuit once the investigation has ended, it’s possible for the complaint to remain under seal. Even if the court lifts the seal after discontinuing the lawsuit, anonymity is still possible since the defendant will not receive service of the complaint. The complaint will still be of public record, however, so it’s possible for the defendant to learn about the whistleblower, but the odds of discovery are relatively low.

Lastly, even if the government negotiates a settlement with the defendant, the whistleblower can remain anonymous a little while longer if the government can get the court to keep the complaint under partial seal. This means the complaint will become public, but information that reveals the whistleblower’s identity will not. If the parties reach a settlement, the whistleblower’s identity will almost certainly become public.

Anti-Retaliation Provisions

Since the chances are high that a whistleblower’s identity will eventually become public knowledge, even if there are no leaks or lapses in secrecy, the False Claims Act has anti-retaliation provisions that will punish an employer who retaliates against a whistleblowing employee. These protections also apply if the whistleblower is not an employee and is just a contractor or agent.

Specifically, an employer cannot discriminate, demote, harass, suspend, fire or threaten the whistleblower because the whistleblower has lawfully acted to stop the fraudulent activity against the federal government. If the employer retaliates against the employee, it will face potential financial penalties.

Sometimes the retaliation is obvious, such as an employer sending the whistleblower an e-mail informing them of job termination because they reported the fraudulent activity to the government. In other situations, the retaliation can be more subtle, like when an employer decides not to promote the whistleblower, reassigns the whistleblower to a less desirable position or assignment or makes offhand remarks about “snitches” and how they “always get what they deserve.”

If a whistleblower successfully proves they are the victim of retaliation for reporting unlawful conduct under the False Claims Act, the whistleblower could receive reinstatement to the original work ranking or status, double the amount of back pay, interest and special damages. Typical special damages include reimbursement of attorneys’ fees and court costs of the lawsuit.

To use the False Claims Act’s anti-retaliation protections, the whistleblower must file the retaliation lawsuit in the appropriate federal court. Also, the retaliation lawsuit must begin within three years of the retaliatory action. This three-year requirement is sometimes called a statute of limitations.

Concerned about What Happens If You Are a Whistleblower?

Deciding to become a whistleblower is a significant decision that requires understanding the whistleblower protection provisions in the False Claims Act. To find out more about these provisions, contact the Bothwell Law Group.

Can the Federal Whistleblower Protection Act Be Counted on No Matter What?

federal whistleblower protection act

federal whistleblower protection actThe Federal Whistleblower Protection Act was a landmark piece of legislation in the history of government whistleblowing. It provided new protections for those employed by the government that “blew the whistle” (reported) on various illegal and immoral acts committed by other government employees.

Before this Federal Whistleblower Protection Act passed in 1989, there were relatively few systematic protections for whistleblowers. As a result, the number of government employees who filed reports of illegal and unethical behavior was fairly small. It is also important to note that the people who did file reports were often subject to harassment, punishment, and even termination. Lawmakers saw the need for a piece of wide-reaching legislation.

Actions Covered by the Federal Whistleblower Protection Act

The Federal Whistleblower Protection Act covers a wide range of different actions that are typically called “whistleblowing.” The actual wording of the legislation provides protection to as many people as possible. The law states that whistleblowers may make reports that they believe “reasonably evidences” a violation of law, regulation or legal rule. They also have protection if they report gross mismanagement, gross waste of taxpayer dollars, abuses of authority or threats to public health and safety.

Federal Agencies Involved in Enforcing the Whistleblower Protection Act

There are several federal agencies dedicated to the enforcement of the Federal Whistleblower Protection Act. These include the Office of Special Counsel, the Merit Systems Protection Board, and the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. While these agencies have all been subject to controversy regarding their protection of whistleblowers at one time or another, they undergo constant reforms with the intention of better protecting those who report unethical and illegal government behavior.

The Office of Special Counsel

The purpose of the Office of Special Counsel is to investigate whistleblower complaints. It has successfully investigated multiple complaints made against members of the Federal government on various occasions. However, it has been at the center of controversy in recent years.

It all started in October 2008, when Scott Block (who was then special counsel) quit during an FBI investigation regarding the Office’s operations. He was allegedly deleting computer files of people who had complained about his management practices. The irony of the situation was clear to a presidential candidate named Barack Obama, who vowed on the campaign trail to appoint a new special counsel committed to the rights of whistleblowers. It took President Obama several years to do so, but he eventually appointed Carolyn Lerner to the post. There have not been any similar controversies since her appointment.

The Merit Systems Protection Board

The Merit Systems Protection Board is a quasi-judicial agency that rules on whistleblower complaints. However, the Merit Systems Protection Board, sometimes referred to as the MSPB, has its share of controversy as well. Since 2000, only three out of 56 cases brought by whistleblowers have resulted in rulings favorable to the whistleblowers. This has led to a great deal of scrutiny of the MSPB.

Again, President Obama decided on reforms. He appointed a new chairperson and vice-chairperson, which many regard as merely the beginning of the changes necessary to truly turn around the MSPB. Upcoming cases will reveal whether the Board will start coming up with rulings that are more favorable to whistleblowers.

The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit

The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, sometimes referred to as the CAFC, is the court that hears whistleblower cases ruled on by the Merit Board. Similar to the other two agencies involved in investigating and ruling on Federal whistleblower cases, it has attracted controversy for its operations. Many members of Congress, notably Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, have raised issues with its rulings. Some say the Court has misinterpreted whistleblower laws and set precedents weighted against the whistleblowers.

The numbers suggest that those who have taken issue with the Court may have a point. Between 1994 and 2010, the Court heard 203 cases. Out of these 203 cases, only three resulted in rulings for the whistleblowers. Unlike the other two federal organizations, there have been no efforts to reform the CAFC. The fact that the Court began in 1982, before the passage of the Federal Whistleblower Protection Act, has been a focal point of calls to reform the CAFC. There are suggestions that a new court should be set up specifically to hear whistleblower cases.

Can you always count on protection from the Federal Whistleblower Protection Act? While you may remain protected from retaliation, it’s true that new reforms may need to take place so more whistleblowers can experience the full benefits of the act as it was intended. To get more information, contact the skilled Federal Whistleblower Protection Act attorneys at Bothwell Law Group by calling 770.643.1606 today. We will fight hard to give you the legal representation you deserve. We have many years of experience working these sorts of cases, so you can rest assured we know what we’re doing.

What Is FCA Whistleblower Protection and What Is Its Legal Reach?

FCA Whistleblower Protection

FCA Whistleblower ProtectionAre you looking for more information about FCA whistleblower protection? Becoming a whistleblower can be frightening. You know something is very wrong and you know you must report it, but what about your job? What about your income? Fortunately, you’re backed up by FCA whistleblower protection.

How Does FCA Whistleblower Protection Affect You?

The top reason people don’t report offenses against the False Claims Act is fear of losing their job and income. They may also worry about other consequences. The FCA whistleblower protection law keeps you safe from any retaliation from your employer.

The Qui Tam law is the part of the law that allows you to bring a case to the government. It means you bring a case ‘on behalf of the king.’ Qui Tam laws have existed since the Middle Ages.

During the American Civil War, Abraham Lincoln’s government created the False Claims Act. This Act was to stop people who were selling unfit horses and faulty guns and ammunition to both sides. The Qui Tam law allows people who don’t work for the government to report offenses. The protection means people cannot lose their job for reporting fraud.

What Is the Legal Reach of FCA Whistleblower Protection?

The FCA whistleblower protection does not just apply to government workers. Whistleblowers can also be ordinary citizens who have discovered dishonesty or fraud. Here’s an example: Imagine you learn your neighbor is reporting to Medicare that they have a caretaker come into their home on a daily basis. They receive payment for those daily visits. As you live close by, you know the caregiver only visits two days a week.

You might hesitate to report this information due to potential retaliation from the neighbor. The FCA whistleblower protection makes sure no harm comes to a citizen who reports fraud.

What Protection Does The FCA Whistleblower Protection Law Provide?

The FCA Whistleblower Protection is there so you will not suffer any harm from reporting an offense. Although losing a job is the most common worry for whistleblowers, the law covers other things as well. For example:

● Your employer cannot stop you from using safety equipment at work
● Your boss cannot threaten you with losing your job
● Your employer cannot reduce your hours
● Your company cannot give you a pay cut
● Your employer cannot demote you

The customary criminal laws still apply. For example, if your employers threaten violence, they will face charges for that offense. These rules are important to remember if you have to report any fraud.

Will FCA Whistleblower Protection Keep Me from Financial Loss?

Yes. If the facts prove a whistleblower has lost their job or income due to reporting their employer, the law makes sure the worker gets their job back. It states you must return to a “superior position.” In other words, if they fire you, you will get your same job back. Your employer cannot hire you back in a lesser position.

For instance, if you were a manager, they could not take you back on as a laborer. They must return you to management. But if your employer fires you, it may take some time before you return to your job. Under the False Claims Act whistleblower protection law, you have the right to recover the wages you lost during this period. In most cases, the defendant is also responsible for your attorney’s fees.

The government has at least 60 days to investigate your claim. During this time, your name is confidential, protecting you from any repercussions. Many times, the initial 60 days is extended, by court order, for weeks or even months. The court seals the case while the investigation continues, so your employer does not know you made the accusation. In fact, your employer is not even aware of the investigation during this time.

As you don’t talk about the case, you will be safe. But when the investigation ends, your attorney cannot guarantee privacy. Your employer will likely discover you blew the whistle.

FCA Whistleblower Protection Provides You Safety

Congress introduced The False Claims Whistleblower Protection Act in 1989. They created the WPA so government workers could report dishonesty and fraud without fear of losing their job.

The Act also applies to ordinary citizens. In the case of Medicare and Medicaid fraud, often an employee will not report an offense. Instead, the whistleblower will be a neighbor or someone in the community that somehow becomes aware of an infraction. The Act protects these people from harm. When a contractor commits fraud against the government, it affects every citizen. The only way this illegal behavior stops is if ordinary citizens continue to report it.

The government understands there is a greater chance of people reporting fraud when they know they have protection. If you have knowledge of fraud, find out more about the FCA whistleblower protection by contacting the Bothwell Law Group.

Is the Whistleblower Protection Program Similar to the Witness Protection Program?

Whistleblower Protection Program

Whistleblower Protection ProgramHave you ever thought of the whistleblower protection program as being like the Witness Protection Program? You’ve seen it in the movies: A guy goes to court and spills the beans on the big mob boss. Uncle Sam sets the witness up with a new life. The result is a name change, move across the country, and a whole new identity. The Witness Protection Program is a real thing, and it is quite necessary. The whistleblower protection program is not like Witness Protection — no one disappears. Rather, it makes sure your job is still yours, whether your employer likes it or not.

How Does the Whistleblower Protection Program Work?

The whistleblower protection program protects federal employees who report fraudulent activity within the government agency that employs them. Whistleblower laws have been on the books since the Civil War, but it was only in 1989 that Congress took steps to make sure people don’t need to worry about losing their jobs because they did the right thing.

The whistleblower protection plan is part of the False Claims Act. The False Claims Act, passed during Civil War times, stopped those who were profiting from the war by cheating the government. The initial Act covered governmental supplies, such as horses, guns, and ammunition. Eventually, the Act fell by the wayside, remaining on the books but rarely used.

In 1989, Congress added the WPA (Whistleblower Protection Act) to the previous law. Congress did this as a way to encourage fraud reporting. The WPA protects federal workers from retaliatory actions from their employers; they cannot suffer retaliation for reporting fraudulent activity on the part of their employers.

There are over 20 different statutes involved in the complete Whistleblower Protection Act. These laws are part of the Occupational Safety and Health Association, or OSHA. The OSHA laws protect workers in a wide variety of industries, including:

● Airline
● Commercial motor carrier
● Consumer product
● Environmental
● Financial reform
● Food safety
● Health insurance reform
● Motor vehicle safety
● Nuclear
● Pipeline
● Public transportation agency
● Railroad
● Maritime
● Securities laws

Has the Whistleblower Protection Act Always Been Part of False Claims?

The Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 brought new protections for federal whistleblowers. The Act also included other legal action. Until 1989, the Act did not include provisions to protect the person who brought forth the fraud charges from retaliation.

When Congress revisited the law, they included the Whistleblower Protection Act. Federal employees who step up and bring fraud to light cannot wind up on the unemployment line because they angered employers by blowing the whistle.

The WPA protects federal employees who disclose information about specific things. These items include wasting money, mismanagement, abuse of authority, or a risk to public health and safety. The act protects against personnel action taken against you as a result of your disclosure. The U.S. Office of Special Counsel has jurisdiction over federal whistleblower retaliation. The WPA addresses federal workers reporting on fraudulent activities within federal agencies. This provision sets the WPA apart from Qui Tam suits covering whistleblowing in other areas.

In 2012, Congress created another action giving more protection to federal employees. It also closed some loopholes the court found in the WPA of 1989. The 2012 legislation is the most recent legislation to focus on whistleblowing.

What Protection Does the Whistleblower Protection Program Offer?

A whistleblower can face a variety of personnel actions as a result of making a claim against a government agency. According to the Whistleblower Protection Act, the following list of actions cannot happen as a result of filing a complaint:

● Promotions
● Appointments to positions
● Any disciplinary action or adverse action
● Reassignment or transfer
● A poor performance evaluation
● Any decision about pay, benefits or awards. (This includes decisions about training or education, if that training or education could lead to an appointment, transfer, promotion or other benefits.)
● Any psychiatric testing or exam
● A non-disclosure agreement that does not notify the employee that the agreement does not override whistleblower rights and protections.
● Any significant change in working conditions, responsibilities or duties

If you believe you have information that falls under the whistleblower protection program, you need guidance from an attorney who knows the specifics of whistleblower law. To make sure you have everything in order and have complete protection, you need to work with a qualified legal team that is familiar with the whistleblower protection program and all areas it covers. Contact the skilled whistleblower protection program attorneys at Bothwell Law Group by calling 770.643.1606 today.

Can a False Claims Act Law Firm Protect Their Client’s Identity?

False Claims Act Law Firm

False Claims Act Law FirmOne of the most important steps in blowing the whistle on fraud is finding a False Claims Act law firm that knows the tricks of the trade. Think of a new restaurant opening in New York City. If the owner knows the details about design and atmosphere, as well as providing great tasting food, it could make all the difference to their success. Planning a successful lawsuit means knowing all the twists and turns that can derail the project. It also includes careful planning to avoid those pitfalls.

False Claims Act Law Firms Have Experience in Protecting Clients

One of the most important aspects of a False Claims Act action is protecting the person who brings the case to the attention of the government. This person, known as a whistleblower, can face serious consequences in retaliation for their courage. Most of these penalties are in violation of the False Claims Act, but you need an attorney who knows how to apply the law.

Most whistleblowers want their identity to remain concealed. When an attorney brings a claim to the District Court, the government begins an investigation. During the time they are seeking out the facts, confidentiality is guaranteed by law. In fact, the company under investigation is not even aware of the process. As long as the whistleblower does not expose his involvement, his part in the action remains private.

A False Claims Act violation brought to court is a “qui tam” act. Qui tam roughly translates to “on behalf of the king.” It means the private individual is filing suit on behalf of the government. One of the provisions of the qui tam law is keeping the identity of the relator, or whistleblower, confidential. If the relator reveals his involvement, the court can dismiss the lawsuit. This confidentiality stipulation extends to the media. It is of the utmost importance to avoid speaking to anyone about the investigation.

What Other Protections Can a False Claims Act Law Firm Provide?

When the government indicts a corporation for fraud, people expect retaliation. After all, if there was not a fear of defrauding the United States government, why would harm to an employee be out of the realm of possibility? They say power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. When the people running a multi-billion dollar scam have skated on their criminal activity for years, they see themselves as having absolute power.

Qui tam laws are specific about protecting the identity of the whistleblower during the investigation. Once a case goes to court, however, these protections stop. The relator who brings forth the case has no more protection than the defendant in a public hearing. At this point, the lawyer’s work to protect his client takes off in earnest.

Can A False Claims Act Law Firm Prevent Job Loss for the Whistleblower?

Losing a job as a result of a fraud report is a valid concern. Often employees in a position giving them knowledge of the crime have worked for years for that level of pay. When the employee has a family to sustain, the fear is even more intense.

The good news is that the law provides ample protection for a whistleblower. The provisions are close to all-encompassing. Think of how a bumper-to-bumper warranty provides protection for every aspect of a new car. It covers mechanical and electrical parts, maintenance and even everyday wear and tear. With a guarantee like that, you wouldn’t feel afraid to buy the car.

A whistleblower with an experienced lawyer doesn’t need to fear moving forward either. The law provides complete protection for the whistleblower. The government is aware they would not know about most fraud without the public’s help. These laws make it safer and easier to come forward.

The law provides protection against loss of job or benefits. A disgruntled employer cannot withhold promotions or pay raises. The guilty party cannot destroy the employee’s reputation. An employer cannot force or deny a transfer to another location. In fact, the law prevents harassment in every form. A False Claims Act firm knows this and will take steps to keep the relator safe from harm.

Even though there are strict laws preventing job loss for the whistleblower, it is important to have a safety net while things proceed. Your attorney will be able to get your job reinstated. But there is no real guarantee you won’t go through some unemployment while this part of the legal action moves along.

Even with the potential problems in bringing a fraud case forward, an employee who has knowledge of the crime must report it. If they fail to do so, they increase their involvement. This secrecy also increases their personal liability.

To file a fraud case, you need an attorney. Choosing an attorney who focuses on False Claims Act cases is your wisest move. Contact the experienced False Claims Act law firm at Bothwell Law Group by calling 770.643.1606 today.

Can I Bet My Life on the Whistleblower Protection Policy?

Whistleblower Protection Policy

Whistleblower Protection PolicyNeed to know more about whistleblowing or the whistleblower protection policy? If you are in the beginning stages of researching, the information can seem complex overwhelming. Let’s break it down for you so you can learn more about the protection in place should you decide to move forward with a whistleblowing case.

Whistleblowing is the term for bringing a legal case, called a qui tam, on behalf of the government, against a company who is committing fraud. Typical examples include things like Medicare fraud or defense contract fraud. However, there are several types of fraud occurring in numerous industries. The regulations regarding how and when you need to report the fraud vary according to industry and location, so it’s important to work with an attorney who understands these complexities.

People often avoid whistleblowing due to fear of retaliation, such as the loss of a job or possible loss of promotion or benefits. Fortunately, the government has provided protections against such retaliation. These policies were designed to keep a whistleblower from being punished for revealing fraudulent business practices. But how powerful are these protections? Will they prevent you from losing your very livelihood?

Whistleblower Protection Policies Are Extensive

Employers cannot legally take what is termed “adverse action” against workers who report fraudulent activities. According to the US Department of Labor, these measures include:

  • Firing or laying off
  • Reducing pay or hours
  • Blacklisting workers
  • Reassigning workers to positions affecting promotion prospects
  • Demoting workers
  • Making any threats
  • Denying overtime or any promotion
  • Intimidation or harassment
  • Discipline an employee due to reporting
  • Failure to hire or rehire
  • Denying benefits

While it seems these protections cover any possible job-related problems, the real question is, do they work? If your employer does fire you from your job or denies you compensation or benefits, what recourse do you have?

What Types of Actions Does Whistleblower Protection Cover?

The laws protecting whistleblowers vary widely; some of the laws only cover a complaint to a particular agency. Some laws require an employee to notify their employers before they file a claim, so the employer has a chance to correct the wrongdoing. In recent years, one court ruled that telling the boss you were going to sue for overtime is NOT protected; only filing the complaint is protected.

The point is it can be incredibly confusing trying to make sense of all the different laws. It’s even more difficult to follow the law if you don’t know what it is! Protection only works if you know how to use it.

Imagine being caught in a wave tossing storm out on a huge lake in a tiny little rowboat. As the water comes pouring over the sides, you are going to want a life jacket if you capsize. What if you didn’t bring one along because you didn’t know where they were? The sad fact is you’d be treading some pretty ugly waters, only because you didn’t know a thing about what could protect you. It works the same way with the law.

How Can I Get Whistleblower Protection If I Don’t Know the Law?

Just like you can get some fantastic Italian food by going to an excellent restaurant with a chef straight from Tuscany, you can also get all the safety and protection you need when you file a whistleblower case by hiring an attorney who knows the lay of the land.

You may think the only thing you need to consider when hiring an attorney for your whistleblower case is their win/loss record in court cases. This myth is just not true. There are some huge variables in whistleblowing that you need to consider before you make a decision. When you think of all the types of fraud, the many different industries involved, and the details of what constitutes fraud in each one, there is a lot at stake. When you add in the huge variation in the protection laws, well, the level of knowledge and information needed to keep you safe is pushing astronomical. Do you want an attorney who spends their time settling divorces or DUIs to be your ace in the hole?

It’s important to find an attorney who knows all the details of an effective whistleblower strategy. It’s even more important to make sure your attorney can protect you from retaliation fallout that could leave your career smashed to smithereens. Because these laws are different from industry to industry, you need the guidance of someone who can direct you to the step-by-step actions to take for protection. The laws also differ from state to state, so make sure you don’t bypass the process of finding an attorney who knows how to help you.

The right attorney will not only make sure to file your complaint with every detail completed correctly, but he or she will also strive to keep you protected in your job. Learn more about whistleblower protection policy by contacting Bothwell Law Group online.

Does False Claims Act Litigation Fall Under the Whistleblower Law Umbrella?

False Claims Act Litigation

False Claims Act LitigationTo understand how False Claims Act litigation under federal law fits with the Whistleblower Act, we first need to discuss exactly what the false claims law is, what it requires, and who’s penalized by it. The False Claims Act was originally passed as an additional measure to ensure contract compliance by vendors and those billing the federal government for services or product.

No surprise, the law came into existence when numerous audits and investigations uncovered evidence of billing irregularities. Overcharging, intentional misdirection, and even withholding of information have happened, resulting in inflated costs for the government.

False Claims Act Defined

Technically, the False Claims Act penalizes any intentional action that lies, falsifies, misdirects or omits information in such a way that a billing to the government is incorrect or untrue. This includes the intentional withholding of information from the federal government that should have been shared.

In all instances the information must meet a definition of being “material,” in importance. But that term is a subject to how federal investigators interpret it.

Whistleblower Protections

The Whistleblower Act is intended to protect people who believe they have no other option but to go to an external authority to report wrongdoing by their employer.

The protection is written to ensure that the employee is not unfairly punished for reporting the wrongdoing, particularly in an attempt to cover the matter up internally.

Interaction and Application in False Claims Act Litigation

The two Acts cross over when the incorrect billing is reported. At this point, the Whistleblower Act protects the reporting when wrongdoing is found, and the False Claims Act provides the penalty for the wrongdoing as well as a deterrent given the size of the penalty involved in False Claims Act litigation.

For example, if a company has a whistleblower but does nothing to negatively impact the reporting party’s career or job, then there is no issue. The person has made his report, and the company deals with the fallout as it occurs. The federal government then uses the information and files a civil suit under the False Claims Act alone.

On the other hand, if a company fires the reporting person, now both Acts are triggered. First, the False Claims Act still applies because the intentional incorrect billing is discovered. Second, because the company fired the employee due to the report, the company will be hit with additional charges from the former employee under the Whistleblower Act.

There is no question that the interaction of False Claims Act litigation and whistleblower protections complicate such civil claims, and information is available to help guide companies potentially facing such charges.

Have questions about False Claims Act litigation? Click to contact the Bothwell Law Group online.

Will the Whistleblower Protection Law Be in Effect for Defense Contract Fraud?

Whistleblower Protection Law

Whistleblower Protection LawIn 2013, the legal landscape for defense federal contractors, particularly those working with the Department of Defense, changed regarding the whistleblower protection law. On July 1, 2013, a new law amendment was passed, extending federal whistleblower protections to federal contract employees of vendors who made any eligible report associated with abuse, fraud, or waste of government resources. Before then, thousands upon thousands of contract employees worked alongside regular federal employees but did not share in the same whistleblower protections the regular employees enjoyed – even though they worked in the same agency.

Important Whistleblower Protection Law Changes

The eligibility of protections starts at the moment the vendor employee makes a report of wrongdoing to his or her supervisor. Once the report is made, the supervisor and the vendor are then responsible to act on it if substantiated, and correct the matter.

Prior to the 2013 change, a vendor employee only had three options for reporting:

The IG approach worked under most circumstances, but sometimes vendor staff worked in their own company offices and had no access to an agency contract manager or a member of Congress. The new law was embedded in the annual defense funding legislation of 2013, expanding protections to all Defense contractors and their staff. The intelligence side of government, however, was enacted under a time-limited version of the same protections.

What Does the Whistleblower Law Change Mean?

Before the new law was passed, defense contractor employees faced the potential of being fired on the spot with no warning and no recourse. They had none of the protections available to federal civil employees.

They weren’t left helpless though – they had (and still have) rights under the Federal False Claims Act, a separate federal law. The False Claims Act allows private citizens to bring recovery lawsuits against contractors if the Department of Justice refuses to carry the case itself. Of course, that right couldn’t keep a whistleblower from being fired first – and without an income, pursuing the case would be tough. Many attorneys will only represent a whistleblower if their fees are paid up-front, rather than taking the case on a contingency basis.

Expanded Investigation Powers in Whistleblower Cases

From an investigation perspective, the 2013 law changed the landscape of the Inspector General’s reach as well. Prior to the law, the IG’s hands were tied when it came to getting the facts of the case.

Under the new law, the IG’s staff can interview far more vendor witnesses than before to seek evidence of retaliation. No surprise, the Whistleblower Protection Law change is expected to increase the number of reports as defense vendor employees become aware of the new protections. This could turn out to be a big deal, because overall, defense contractor staff significantly outnumbers federal civil employees in the same programs and agencies.

To understand in detail how the recent Whistleblower Protection Law changes impact your company, call for a free consultation today. We can discuss how this new law impacts employees of contractors.

What You Need to Know About the Laws That Protect Whistleblowers Before You Take Any Action

Laws That Protect Whistleblowers

Laws That Protect WhistleblowersIf 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:

  • Fired
  • Demoted
  • Suspended
  • Harassed
  • 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

Anti-Retaliation Remediation

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.