Whistleblowing and Qui Tam Lawsuits
If you have been subjected to retaliation for reporting wrongdoing, or if you have witnessed improper or illegal conduct at your workplace and are not sure how to report it, our Boston whistleblower lawyers can advise you. There are laws in specific areas that are designed to encourage whistleblowing and protect those who disclose wrongdoing to the proper authorities. On the other hand, there are many situations where reporting problems would not be protected by law and could have significant consequences for someone’s career and employment prospects. It is important to have sound legal advice to navigate the patchwork of state and federal laws that can be relevant to possible whistleblowing situations.
Federal law protects employees who complain to their employers, unions, or government agencies about job safety, health, or environmental issues that are regulated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The federal Sarbanes-Oxley Act also protects employees of publicly-traded companies for reporting violations of securities laws in some circumstances. In Massachusetts, a law specific to state and local government employees makes it illegal for government agencies to punish employees for reporting, testifying about, or speaking out against violations of the law or risks to public health, safety, or the environment. And both federal and state laws ban retaliation for opposing illegal gender, race, age, or other discrimination. This is just a brief overview of some of the laws at play. Some of these laws have specific procedures that must be followed to protect a whistleblower’s rights, such as statutes of limitations as short as 30 days, so it is important to seek legal advice as soon as possible.
If you are aware of fraud against the government, such as Medicare or Medicaid fraud, a procedure called a “qui tam” lawsuit may enable you to do the right thing by reporting the fraud, and also obtain a reward if the government is able to recover money as a result. Under the False Claims Act, anyone with original knowledge of fraud or false claims against the federal government can secretly file a lawsuit on behalf of the government seeking to recover the money that was paid fraudulently. (Massachusetts has a similar law for false claims at the state level.) If the suit is successful, the whistleblower can get as much as 30% of the recovery as a reward, plus costs and attorney’s fees. And the whistleblower is protected against retaliation as a result of filing the claim. The law and rules governing these claims can be complex and technical, so good legal advice is essential to avoid pitfalls and obstacles in a qui tam case.
Nobody should be subjected to retaliation for blowing the whistle and reporting wrongdoing. There are protections for whistleblowers in some situations, but the laws governing these situations are limited and leave many gaps or loopholes. If you have reported improper or illegal actions and suffered as a result, or if you know of wrongdoing and are considering reporting it, we urge you to call our employment lawyers at (617) 742-6020 or fill out our online contact form to speak to a Boston whistleblower lawyer who can assist you.