Whistleblowers, or those who report fraud, waste, and other illegal activities, play an important role in our society. They help keep the system honest. Governmental fraud costs all of us—the taxpayers—millions of dollars each year. As a result, the federal government has passed a number of laws to encourage the average citizen to step forward and blow the whistle on crooks. One aspect of these laws is that they give the whistleblower a cut of the penalties that the fraudsters must pay if they are found guilty. Another aspect — one which may relieve some of your worries if you are considering coming forward with knowledge of wrongdoing — is that they provide some legal protections for whistleblowers.
The Power of Not Releasing Your Name
There’s no doubt that blowing the whistle can be nerve-wracking. One way the various laws encourage whistleblowers is to offer them the shield of anonymity. For example, under the Whistleblower Protection Act of 2012, you can disclose what you know anonymously, or request that your name not be released, when you make a protected disclosure. A protected disclosure involves information about the mismanagement or waste of funds or resources, fraudulent activity such as billing for goods or services not provided, specific dangers to public health or safety, and violations of laws, rules, or regulations.
There are some situations in which a whistleblower can be legally compelled to reveal his or her identity. If anonymity hampers the investigation of the reported wrongdoing but the filer still chooses to remain anonymous, the case may be dismissed.
Fears of Retaliation
Some potential whistleblowers are fearful that they may experience threats or retaliation. But protections have been written into the myriad number of whistleblower laws that make it illegal for an employer to take an adverse action against a whistleblower, including things such as demotion, firing, denial of benefits or overtime pay or promotions, reducing pay or hours, and various sorts of threats and harassment.
If someone does attempt to retaliate against a whistleblower, the person so threatened can bring a case to gain legal relief for reinstatement, double any back pay owed, and compensation for legal costs and fees. The court’s concern would be whether the adverse action (e.g., a demotion) has a causal relationship with making a protected disclosure (e.g., reporting fraudulent billing). In other words, a link must be demonstrated to exist between the adverse action by the employer and the whistleblower’s protected disclosure.
If you are a whistleblower who has made a protected disclosure, and you believe that you are experiencing retaliation, you have strict time limits for making your complaint. Depending upon the federal law under which you are operating as a whistleblower, the statutes of limitation can give you as little as 30 days or up to 180 days to file your complaint that you have been unlawfully subjected to an adverse action. When it comes to the granddaddy of whistleblower laws, the False Claims Act, the statute of limitation for a retaliation case relies on the state statute that is most closely analogous to your claim.
Justice for VA Whistleblowers
In April of 2015, three cases of retaliation against Veterans Administration (VA) whistleblowers were settled, according to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC). The whistleblowers in question were threatened with suspensions and relocation to basement offices and were denied family leave they were entitled to.
You may recall the scandal which came to light in 2014 over VA hospitals which manipulated data in order to hide the fact that veterans were experiencing long waits before receiving medical care. Dozens of whistleblowers came forward to report the misconduct; some also said they had received threats from management. According to the Office of Special Counsel, relief was obtained for more than 45 VA workers who were treated this way, and more resolutions are expected.
Intervention was needed, said the OSC, “because of the chilling effect the VA’s actions could have on whistleblowers’ willingness to raise concerns publicly.” That’s exactly why the whistleblower laws were written to include protections for those willing to report fraud and other wrongdoing.
On the case. Around the clock.
If you have insider knowledge about governmental fraud, you could be entitled to a significant cash reward in a whistleblower suit. Whether it is Medicare fraud, tax fraud, defense contractor fraud, mortgage fraud, or some other kind of fraud, an experienced whistleblower attorney like the ones at the Louthian Law Firm can assess your case and help you file the necessary disclosure statement with the government if you have a valid case. In some instances, the government will “intervene” or take part in your lawsuit. A qualified attorney can help you structure your claims in such a way that the government will be persuaded to intervene in your case, possibly increasing the likelihood that you will recover reward money. However, even if the government doesn’t decide to intervene, it might still be advisable to pursue your case without government involvement.
For a free, confidential evaluation of your case, call the Louthian Law Firm today at (803) 454-1200 or fill out the online consultation form. Louthian Law Firm. Seeking truth. Securing justice.