Whistleblowers Have Powerful Laws On Their Side

By: Ahaburchak
Those who report fraud, known in legal terms as "relators" and commonly as whistleblowers, have some of the most powerful and effective laws in the country on their side.

Whistleblowers may identify and report actual theft, false claims, over billing, up coding, unbundling, kickbacks, false certifications, violations of governmental regulations, destruction of company records, workplace violence, safety hazards or unsafe working conditions, environmental concerns, substance abuse, general conflicts of interest, release of proprietary information and other types of fraud or occupational concerns.

Some of the governmental agencies and laws that protect whistleblowers include:

* Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

* Civil Rights Act of 1866 (since amended numerous times)

* Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

* Federal False Claims Act

* Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act of 1970

Under the OSH Act of 1970, employers may not discharge or in any manner discriminate against any employee because an employee has filed any complaint, or instituted or caused to be instituted, any proceeding under or related to this Act. Additionally, the employer may not terminate an employee who has testified, or is about to testify, in any such proceeding.

Under the Act, an employee who believes that a work hazard exists, whether or not they have filed a claim, has legal protection to refuse to work if all of the following apply:

* The employee faces death or serious injury and the hazard is so clear that a reasonable person would agree with the seriousness of the hazard.

* The situation is so urgent that there is not time to eliminate the hazard through regulatory channels.

* The employee has tried to get the employer to correct the dangerous condition and they have not complied.

OSHA also administers the whistle blowing provisions of thirteen other statutes, protecting employees who report violations of various trucking, airline, nuclear power, pipeline, environmental and securities laws.

The Federal False Claims Act provides the legal framework for claims alleging fraud against the federal government, and it does several important things for a whistleblower:

* Provides specific protection for the whistleblower from discharge, demotion, suspension, threats or other harassment or discrimination that the whistleblower may encounter due to lawful actions taken in the furtherance of a whistleblower claim, if the employee is still works for the employer.

* Provides for filing a whistleblower complaint under seal, which means that no one other than the government, not even the defendants alleged to have committed the fraud, can know of the complaint until after the government has investigated the claims.

* Allows the whistleblower to share in the government's successful recovery, from 15% and up to 25% of the entire recovery, in some cases.

Eleven states and the District of Columbia also have their own false claims acts that closely resemble the Federal Act.

Whistleblower laws allow for the contingent fee representation of whistleblowers. The Federal False Claims Act also provides that a whistleblower's attorney's fees be paid by the entity that committed the fraud in the event of a government recovery. Therefore, there are no costs/fees/expenses to the employee if the case is successful.

Anyone who knows of fraud against the government can become a whistleblower. Typically, individuals who know about fraud are employees or former employees of the companies committing the fraud these individuals often have the best evidence to support their knowledge.

There can only be ONE whistleblower claim based on certain information. The first to file based on specific information about a particular fraud preempts other whistleblowers and their claims. In addition, an employee cannot bring a whistleblower complaint if information about the fraud becomes public before bringing a claim.
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