Example of a Whistleblower Case We Handled Involving the False Claims Act
The False Claims Act (FCA) is a federal law that prohibits entities from defrauding the federal government and provides private citizens with the right to bring suit on behalf of the federal government against the entity engaging in fraud and share in the recovery of damages. Claims brought under the FCA are sometimes also referred to as Qui Tam claims. The FCA is relevant to employee rights because employees are often witnesses to the fraudulent behavior and therefore are in the best position to report and address it. The FCA contains an anti-retaliation provision that prohibits employers from retaliating against an employee for reporting what they employee believes to be fraud against the government or for taking any action which “could reasonably lead to” a False Claims Act claim.
In Maine we have a strong anti-retaliation statute, the Maine Whistleblowers Protection Act (MWPA). The MWPA protects employees from retaliation for reporting in good faith what they reasonably believe to be a violation of the law, a condition or practice that endangers the health or safety of the employee or others, or a condition or practice that deviates from the applicable standard of patient care. The MWPA also protects employees who refuse to follow a directive that is, in fact, illegal or that would likely lead to serious bodily injury or death. Therefore, employees who experience retaliation after reporting something that is unsafe or potentially unlawful are protected by the MWPA. The same facts may also support a claim under the FCA if the report relates to non-compliance with preconditions for payment by the government or other fraud relating to government billing. Adding a FCA retaliation claim can increase the damages available to an employee since it provides for some types of damages not available under the MWPA such as liquidated damages equal again to an employee’s lost wages and benefits and compensatory damages without a cap. Compensatory damages are awarded by a jury to compensate an employee for stress, humiliation, hardship, and other emotional distress. The MWPA has limits on the amount available based on the employer’s number of employees. The FCA has no such cap.
Maine Employee Rights Group has represented many Maine employees over the years in claims challenging unlawful retaliation for whistleblowing including many cases under the FCA. If you have been retaliated against by your employer for whistleblowing you should contact an experienced attorney to learn about your rights and recourse.