What You Should Know About Whistleblower Protections and the False Claims Act
Society has an incentive to protect those brave enough to stand up and point out wrongdoing within organizations for the betterment of others. One of the ways this is done in the United States legal system is through whistle blower protections.
What Are Whistleblower Protections?
A whistle blower is a person within an organization, such as a company or a governmental body, that alerts authorities and others like the media of wrongdoing or corruption within that institution.
Without legal protections, such brave citizens are at risk of facing reprisal or discrimination. This often includes workplace retaliation against that employee. The employee may be fired or demoted. In other cases, the worker may be denied promotions and raises that would have been given to other employees in the same position who had not reported illegal or unethical practices. Other cases of reprisal are more subtle. For example, the employee in question may be excluded from new projects or sent significantly less work.
Whistle blower protections exist to protect corporate employees and government workers who face this kind of discrimination for being brave enough to come forward about wrongdoing for the greater good.
The False Claims Act and Qui Tam Actions
There are specific parts of the US legal code that specifically allow for the act of whistle blowing without reprisal. One of these protections is included in the False Claims Act. The False Claims Act was originally signed into law by Abraham Lincoln to penalize those that defraud the federal government. It was later modified specifically to include whistle blower protections.
These provisions are known as qui tam, an abbreviation of a Latin phrase outlining the legal concept of an individual suing on behalf of the government. These qui tam provisions provide attorneys and regular citizens with the ability to sue another party on behalf of the federal government if it is believed that party is defrauding the government.
The law also allows those that seek a qui tam action to obtain some of the monetary penalty if that defendant is found guilty in court. This gives regular citizens a stronger incentive to sue on behalf of the government. Most often, these are cases against organizations who do business with the federal government such as healthcare companies, universities, government contractors and programs set up to spend funds allocated by congress.
When a qui tam writ is filed, the federal government may or may not decide to join the lawsuit with the plaintiff. A plaintiff suing on behalf of the government can expect to win 15 to 25 percent of the awarded penalty. If the government decides not to join the case, this amount can be as high as 30 percent. These cases are rarer, however, since the government only joins stronger cases.
How a Whistleblower Law Firm Can Help
One way a law firm that has experience in protecting whistleblowers can help is by determining whether or not a case is likely to be successful in court. If a case is deemed to be a strong one, it will be pursued and the attorneys involved will probably be paid on a contingent basis. This means they will not charge for their services unless the lawsuit is won. If the government decides to be added as a party to the suit, the chances of winning go up exponentially.
To make the determination of whether or not a suit will be successful, the law firm in question will perform an investigation of the matter and determine based on the evidence available whether or not the case has significant merit. This is why the use of a law firm with substantial experience in whistleblower cases is important. A person considering filing this kind of lawsuit should pick a law firm with a good track record of working with the government to win these kinds of lawsuits.