As long as there have been cheaters and thieves, courageous people have stepped forward to stop them. Whistleblowers need legal protection before they expose the wrongdoers and fraudsters. If you are planning to expose a fraud, it is critical that you have a lawyer advising you before you open that door.
We stand by your if you have noticed something unethical or illegal at your work place. Our goal is to provide you with the best defense, all of your options, inform you of your rights and treat you like family. Contact our whistleblower defense attorneys today to hear more.
Federal and State governments have established laws to protect whistleblowers against retaliation and financially reward them for helping stop fraud. The Federal False Claims Act (the FCA) is the law which allows private citizens to sue in the name of the United States Government when someone defrauds it. The citizen who brings this action is called the “Relator” (the person who “relates” the story of wrongdoing). 29 states, the District of Columbia, and even some cities have false claims statutes that reward whistleblowers for helping recover stolen state funds. Collectively, these laws are sometimes called “Qui Tam” statutes.
There are also whistleblower laws covering other types of fraud. Securities and tax frauds are two types addressed by different statutes with different requirements. One thing which is common to all whistleblower laws is that they impose very strict requirements in order for the Relator to share in the money recovered and seek protection from retaliation.
We represent people with inside knowledge of financial scams against the Federal and state governments, including those involving funds paid for:
Anyone who exposes fraud or theft against the Federal Government and some states, as well as people who act to stop securities and tax fraud, based upon some inside knowledge. A whistleblower is a courageous person that learns of someone who is stealing from the taxpayers or cheating investors and puts an end to the wrongful activity. Often, but not always, these people work for companies who are systematically cheating the Government. Though some use the term “whistleblower” for a person who acts to stop private wrongs (affecting only private companies), the law rewards those who help the Federal and state governments and offers them special protections against retaliation by the wrongdoer.
It is a fraud when someone lies in order to get money that they are not entitled to. A contractor who bills the government for services which they do not actually provide is committing fraud. A doctor or hospital who submits an invoice to Medicare or Medicaid claiming to have spent one hour with a patient whom they saw for only 30 minutes is committing fraud. A manufacturer who sells the Army helmets which it knows are defective is committing fraud. A university that spends Federal grant money for something not covered by the grant is committing fraud. Most forms of intentional or knowing cheating are considered fraud. Even suppliers who lack actual knowledge of the fraud but who should have known that their invoices are wrong can be penalized under these Qui Tam laws.
A federal law called the False Claims Act (and seminal laws enacted by some states) provides that a whistleblower is to be paid a percentage of any money recovered by the government as a result of the whistleblower’s actions. This reward can be truly substantial – amounting to between 15 and 30% of a judgment. A whistleblower is also entitled to be awarded money damages if they prove that they have been punished by their employer (fired, demoted, black-balled, etc.) for reporting the fraud and that they lost wages or incurred other losses as a result of this illegal retaliation.
If the case is mishandled, a whistleblower may be denied all compensation whatsoever. This can happen even if the Government gets all of its money back with penalties and interest. Improper disclosure of the investigation or other whistleblowers coming forward first are just two of the many issues which can prevent a recovery. There are also risks to one’s professional reputation if the company being investigated seeks to destroy the credibility of the whistleblower in an effort to avoid liability.
Yes, but the whistleblower’s rights and the protections of the False Claims Act will probably not be enforced. No money for taking the risk. No protection from retaliation by the employer.
(1) CONSULT A LAWYER: Start by calling a lawyer with expertise in Qui Tam actions. There is no charge for the short phone consultation with one of the lawyers at Rawls, Scheer, Clary & Mingo to determine if you may have a valid complaint. If we think there is some merit to the claim, we will set up a meeting to explore the issue with you face-to-face. We will not charge for this meeting either. If you choose to go forward and stop the fraud, we will help you create and implement a plan to maximize your chance of success and minimize your risk of personal or professional harm. It is critical that you begin by speaking with a lawyer first. Even if you want to try to stop the fraud from within the company, those efforts need to be carefully planned and documented in the event that you later take formal action under a whistleblower statute (like the False Claims Act (“FCA”)) and seek to share in the government’s recovery. Also, the company may try to punish you if this private campaign fails to correct the illegal conduct. If this happens, you need to be prepared to use the law’s anti-retaliation protections.
(2) DEVELOP A PLAN: From the first moment that you think you might want to blow the whistle on someone who is stealing from the government, you should create a plan with your lawyer. If you have not already done so, the first step will often be to work from within the company to eliminate the problem. Even before doing this, there are steps you must take to protect yourself should the effort backfire. If you decide to initiate a formal complaint outside the company, there are several steps which you and your lawyer must take before initiating action under False Claims Acts. The plan must have options built in so that you maintain the upper hand no matter what the wrong-doer does.
(3) MAINTAIN ABSOLUTE SILENCE: There are several reasons not to speak with anyone about your decision and your activities as a whistleblower. The most important is that public disclosure of the frauds prior to filing a whistleblower claim might disqualify you from any financial recovery. It also goes without saying that your professional life may become disrupted if news of you blowing the whistle makes it back to the wrongdoer. Though you may later make discreet contact with certain carefully selected witnesses, you should only do so in consultation your lawyer.
(4) STAY ON THE JOB (usually): Your ability to correct the wrong and be rewarded for your efforts depends largely on your value as a witness. By keeping your position within the company (or whatever circumstances brought you into possession of the information), you will maximize your ability to gather evidence and strengthen your case. Continue to be a model employee. Any blemishes on your employment record during the run up to filing a claim could weaken your position should the company try to retaliate against you for blowing the whistle.
(5) PROTECT THE PUBLIC: If the fraud is causing direct, irreparable harm to anyone, get a lawyer immediately and work with them to quickly put an end to the practice. An example of this might be a doctor who is performing a surgical procedure which falls dangerously short of the standard of care, but is billing Medicare as though he were providing the appropriate service. In most cases, your lawyer will still be able to preserve your claim even though the case could not be fully developed before reporting it to the government.
(6) BE REASONABLE: The best whistleblowers are those who are motivated by a desire to stop someone from stealing from the taxpayers. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be rewarded for the risks you take in doing this, but you will be less credible and ultimately less successful if you are solely motivated by cash.
(7) KEEP RECORDS: You will want to keep records of all of your efforts to correct the fraud. This will help to protect you from false allegations that you were acting to damage your employer’s business or trying to steal trade secrets for your personal gain. Witnesses such as your spouse or your lawyer who can attest that your actions were motivated by a desire to stop the thefts will help deflect a campaign to discredit you later on.
(8) COLLECT EVIDENCE (sometimes): You may need to gather evidence that will support your claim of fraud before drawing any attention to yourself. Be careful: taking documents or other evidence can be illegal or expose you to a lawsuit! Work only with a lawyer to ensure that you are getting all relevant information and that the manner in which you go about it is legal. Depending on controlling laws in your state, you may even be able to record conversations to help establish that people within the company knew that the practice was wrong.
(9) PREPARE FOR THE LONG HAUL: Though blowing the whistle can be both personally and financially rewarding, you should be prepared for a lengthy process. Some FCA (whistleblower) cases resolve in a year, but many go on for two or more years. There will be phases during which your personal investment in time will be substantial. There will also be stretches where your lawyer will be carrying the load and you will be less directly involved. Your lawyer will be able to give you more guidance on how complex your action may be and will give some rough estimates of how long it will take.
(10) THERE ARE NO GUARANTEES: Like any litigation, no one can guarantee that you will win the case or that you will receive any money. Since your lawyer will not get paid unless you win, their willingness to take the case may be your best indicator of the quality of your case. Choose experienced and aggressive whistleblower legal counsel and you will maximize your chances of success.
An employee who reports illegal activity at the workplace (other than workplace rights violations) is a whistleblower. For example, an employee might report that his or her employer is falsifying tax returns or deceiving federal tax auditors.
In North Carolina, whistleblowers are protected by law. If a whistleblower is terminated from his or her job as a result of exposing an employer’s criminal acts, that is wrongful termination, and it is punishable in criminal court. Whistleblowers may file a wrongful termination suit with the help of an experienced employment law attorney.
A skilled and experienced lawyer can help you plan a legal course of action by using the laws and precedents that protect whistleblowers. For your first meeting, you should start by preparing a timeline:
To prove that retaliation or wrongful termination has occurred, it is imperative to prove that your termination was solely due to your whistleblowing complaint. Timing is of the essence here and will determine the strength of the case. For example the closer your complaint (or your exertion of legal rights) and your employer’s action, the stronger your case. It is also important to establish that the person who issued the termination (or made the decision) was aware of your whistleblowing complaint.
There are certain options available to help you if you are out of work and concerned about the cost of engaging an attorney. An attorney may take your case on a contingency fee basis, under which he or she will be paid only if your suit is successful, through a percentage of the money that you will be awarded. Under certain retaliation statutes, if you win, the court can also award attorneys’ fees, which means your employer will be reimbursing or paying your legal expenses.
If you were fired or retaliated against at work for whistleblowing and you live in North Carolina, contact the employment lawyers at Rawls, Scheer, Clary, & Mingo today at 704-376-3200, or fill out our online contact form.
You work for a company in Charlotte and you have discovered that your company is engaged in conduct that you believe is breaking the law. You feel obligated to take action to make your company comply with the law, but you are afraid of retaliation from your employer if you say something. This, of course, is a natural reaction. However, both North Carolina and federal law offer you some protection.
Whistleblower laws have been enacted in many states to protect those people who want their company to be accountable to the law and come forward to legal authorities to obtain compliance. North Carolina has enacted laws to make sure that an employee has the ability to come forward without having to be afraid of punishment from an employer that has been turned in. There are also several federal provisions that offer protection.
North Carolina prohibits an employer from taking “retaliatory action” against an employee if he or she engaged in any number of protected actions. These actions include filing a complaint, initiating any inquiry, investigation, inspection, proceeding, or any other action, or testifying or providing information with respect to the following laws:
The law offers you protections if you help or facilitate another employee in any of the protected actions listed above. You are also protected if you exercise any right on behalf of an employee under Article 2A or Article 16 of Chapter 95 (State Wage and Hour Act or State OSHA law, referenced above), Article 2A of Chapter 74 (Mine and Safety Act) or Article 52 of Chapter 143 (State Pesticide Board). This law also protects compliance with Article 27 of Chapter 7B of the General Statutes (Authority over Parents of Juveniles Adjudicated Delinquent or Undisciplined) and if you exercise rights under Chapter 50B (Domestic Violence laws).
Federal law also provides protections for whistleblowers. The majority of these laws are administered by the federal OSHA and include protections for whistleblowers concerning workplace safety, federal environmental law standards and reporting and financial institution compliance, just to name a few. Federal law also protects whistleblowers against retaliation if they allege fraud by an employer against the government under the False Claims Act (these are known as “qui tam” actions).
If you find yourself in a position in which you have blown the whistle on questionable actions by your employer and you have been retaliated against, it can be a scary time. There are resources out there to help you. An experienced whistleblower attorney can make all the difference in a complex case. Please give the knowledgeable attorneys at Rawls, Scheer, Clary, & Mingo a call at 704-376-3200 or click here to set up your initial consultation and see what we can do for you.