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Saturday, September 11, 2010

Whistleblower Protection Under the Federal False Claims Act and other federal statutes

Whistleblower Protection Laws

Whistleblower protection laws serve to prevent an employer from engaging in retaliatory conduct (making disparaging and defamatory comments, demoting whistleblowers, casting whistleblowers as troublemakers, suspending suspected whistleblowers, reducing or cutting pay, transferring the whistleblower, denying the whistleblower promotions, denying the whistleblower benefits, terminating the whistleblower on false charges, unlawfully releasing personal information about the whistleblower, isolating the whistleblower from other employees or information, and threatening the whistleblower) against an individual that has blown the whistle on fraudulent conduct and unlawful conduct including False Claims Act Lawsuits.

There are a variety of types of whistleblower protection statutes that may apply to a particular whistleblower action.  The main goal of these statutes is to offer protection to heroes and whistleblowers that are strong and brave enough to stand up to corporations and senior executives that are fraudulently stealing from the United States government, state government, or local governments or intentionally violating health and safety laws.   

Whistleblower Protection Under the Federal False Claims Act

The Federal False Claims Act has strong whistleblower protection provisions that protect Qui Tam False Claims Act whistleblowers from retaliatory actions by violators of the Federal False Claims Act.

Under Section 3730(h) of the False Claims Act, "[a]ny employee who is discharged, demoted, suspended, threatened, harassed, or in any other manner discriminated against in the terms and conditions of employment by his or her employer because of lawful acts done by the employee on behalf of the employee or others in furtherance of an action under this section, including investigation for, initiation of, testimony for, or assistance in an action filed or to be filed under this section, shall be entitled to all relief necessary to make the employee whole. Such relief shall include reinstatement with the same seniority status such employee would have had but for the discrimination, 2 times the amount of back pay, interest on the back pay, and compensation for any special damages sustained as a result of the discrimination, including litigation costs and reasonable attorneys' fees. An employee may bring an action in the appropriate district court of the United States for the relief provided in this subsection."

As such, any employer that discharges, demotes, harasses, or otherwise discriminates against a Federal False Claims Act Whistleblower because of lawful acts by the employee in furtherance of an action under the Federal False Claims Act can be liable to that Federal False Claims Act whistleblower for reinstatement, double back pay, and compensation for any special damages including litigation costs and reasonable attorneys' fees. 

Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act of 2009 Expanded Whistleblower Protections to Include Subcontractors and Grantees (May 2009)

In May 2009, the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act of 2009 was signed into law which made important amendments to the Federal False Claim Act.  Included in these Amendments, the Act redefines "claim" to include claims submitted "to a contractor, grantee, or other recipient, if the money or property is to be spent or used on the Government's behalf or to advance a Government program or interest."  This language makes explicit the ability of Government and whistleblowers to pursue subcontractors and grantees.  This expansion will create potential liability to health care providers that commit Medicare Fraud and other forms of Health Care Fraud against the United States Government.  It should also extend False Claim Act whistleblower protections to employees of health care providers that are subcontractors receiving Medicare benefits or grantees of federal government grants.

The Act also expands the anti-retaliation provisions from only employees to include "contractors and agents" who "act to stop one or more violations."  This expanded protection could extend to contractors in government-funded managed care plans who take action to stop false reporting or illegal denial of service by the plan.  These expansions to the Federal False Claims Act should increase the number of Federal False Claims Act Lawsuits, allow the Federal Government to crack down on fraud and wasteful spending as well as recoup money that has been fraudulently obtained, and help protect False Claims Act Whistleblowers from unlawful retaliatory actions.

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (February 2009)

In February 2009, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 was signed into law which includes significant new whistleblower provisions. Section 1553 of the Act prohibits any private employer or state or local government that receives any funds pursuant to the Act from retaliating against an employee who discloses, internally or externally, information that the employee reasonably believes constitutes evidence of one or more of a number of specified improper uses of stimulus funds, including gross mismanagement of an agency contract or grant, gross waste of covered funds, or an abuse of authority related to the implementation or use of covered funds. Section 1553 establishes procedures and damage remedies that are similar in some ways to those with which many employers are familiar under Section 806 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act ("SOX"), but its whistleblower provisions go beyond the whistleblower protections of SOX in several respects.

Whistleblower Protection Laws

For more information on whistleblower protection laws under the Federal False Claims Act and other federal statutes, feel free to go to the following webpage on Federal False Claims Act Whistleblower Protection.

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