A whistleblower is an individual who reports fraud, abuse, corruption, waste, or dangers to the public by the hands of an individual or organization. In most cases, the whistleblower works for the company where the wrongdoing is occurring; however, it does not only stem from direct insiders. In fact, any individual can report the wrongdoing occurring that would otherwise remain unknown.
Federal and state law protects whistleblowers from retaliation in the workplace. Laws include:
- New York False Claims Act: “Authorizes citizens to bring lawsuits to recover treble (or triple) damages for fraudulent claims submitted to the City.” As an incentive, those who bring about suits may, in certain circumstances, keep as much as 30% of the funds recovered.
- Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002: Mandated reform to securities regulations and protected investors from fraudulent financial reporting by corporations.
- Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989: Protects Federal employees and applicants for employment who lawfully disclose information about violations of law, abuse of authority, and dangers to the public health and safety.
- The New York State Labor Law: Protects employees who report a violation that either “creates and presents a substantial and specific danger to the public health or safety, or…constitutes health care fraud.”
- False Claims Act: Federal law that provides rewards for whistleblowers who bring claims under the Act to report fraud in federal government contracts and programs.
How to File a Qui Tam Lawsuit: Whistleblowers
Qui tam lawsuits are a form of whistleblower claims brought under the False Claims Act. The False Claims Act makes qui tam cases, which are those lawsuits where private individuals assisting the government in prosecuting these whistleblower cases. If successful, the individual, known as the realtor, can receive a portion of the funds recovered.
To file a qui tam case, the False Claims Act requires the use of an attorney to organize the formal complaint, listing the violations the whistleblower has experienced or knows of. Qui tam lawsuits can be based on violation by an entity that:
- Make false or fraudulent claims for payment or approval and knowingly makes or uses a false record or statement to an obligation to pay or transmit money or property to the government.
- Knowingly conceals or avoids or decreases an obligation to pay or transmit money or property to the government.
Finding a whistleblower attorney is difficult because the Act has very specific requirements that must be followed. Once the qui tam case is filed, the government will investigate the allegations whether it is time to intervene in the case.
The qui tam case is sealed for 60 days while the government conducts an investigation. While hundreds are sent each year, the government only intervenes in a small percentage of cases. Once the government does intervene, it assumes control of the case, with participation by the whistleblower and their attorney.
Should the government decline the case, the whistleblower and their attorney can continue the case.
Defendants who are found guilty in a False Claims Act case can be found liable to pay government losses up to three times the total amount. However, most cases will settle in negotiations and not go to a trial court.
Rewards for Qui Tam Whistleblowers
When qui tam whistleblowers are successful, they may earn 15 to 25 percent of the amount collected by the government. If the government did not intervene, the reward grows to 25 to 30 percent of the amount collected.
The exact reward can depend on the quality of the information provided and the amount of work the whistleblower and their attorney put into the case.
Are whistleblowers protected from retaliation?
When you are a whistleblower, you may fear retaliation. While termination is often the biggest consequence, there are other forms of retaliation for whistleblowing you may face, including:
- Suspended employment
- Bad performance review
- Creation of a hostile work environment
- Reduction in hours, wages, and benefits
- Reduction in job duties and responsibilities
- Any other adverse employment action
However, you are protected when filing a qui tam case. Under the False Claims Act, retaliation is prohibited against those who report violations. These protections extend to independent contractors and agents. In addition, the Act offers relief for employees who are discharged or discriminated against for their involvement in a qui tam case.
Contact The New York City Whistleblower Attorneys Today
When you see injustice happening against the government, you should feel safe reporting these wrongs. But when you don’t even know where to begin, you need a whistleblower claim attorney to guide you through the process.
If you have a whistleblower claim in New York City or New York State, call the NYC whistleblower lawyers of Brown Kwon & Lam, LLP today.