In a perfect world, companies would respect and even reward employees who internally report fraud or take steps to try to correct false claims submitted to the government. But all too often, businesses take the opposite approach and retaliate against employees who are just trying to do the right thing. Thus, it is an unfortunate reality that many whistleblowers face harassment, demotion, or even termination related to their efforts to investigate their concerns and report the fraud internally or to the government.
It is important that any potential whistleblower be mentally and financially prepared for the possibility of workplace retaliation. It is also important to know that there can be a remedy for individuals who face such consequences. In fact, Congress has created and repeatedly strengthened whistleblower retaliation protections in the False Claims Act, the Whistleblower Protection Enforcement Act, the National Defense Authorization Act, the Dodd-Frank Act, and the Defend Trade Secrets Act – a clear signal that it will not tolerate any corporate conduct intended to deter, minimize or silence whistleblowers.
The laws cannot affirmatively prevent an employer from retaliating against an employee. But, the remedies are intended to be strong enough to discourage employers from taking negative actions against employees who are trying to right a wrong. If an employee, contractor or agent is discharged, demoted, suspended, threatened, harassed because of their efforts to investigate or report false claims concerns, he or she is entitled to reinstatement with the same seniority status, two times the amount of back pay, interest on the back pay, and compensation for any special damages including litigation costs and attorneys’ fees.
Many states have state-level wrongful termination laws that may also apply to a whistleblower’s circumstances. There are times when a terminated employee may choose to bring separate employment and whistleblower cases, but the parallel tracks are complicated and often fraught with significant risks for both cases. If you’ve been terminated and are considering your available options, contact Morgan Verkamp to have experienced qui tam counsel evaluate your facts before you file an employment case.
If you have been retaliated against, or if you are an employment attorney representing a client who believes they were terminated for reporting fraud, please contact us to evaluate your case.