As 2016 Draws to a Close, Retaliation Claims by Whistleblowers Rise Against Such Institutions as the Veterans Affairs and Wells Fargo

Our Los Angeles based employment attorneys report that there has been an uptick in the number of retaliation claims by whistleblowers.  One instance is an abuse claim made against the Veterans Affairs Hospital System by an employee at the hospital.  The employee blew the whistle exposing in part that the hospital kept open nearly 38,000 specialty appointment consultations and as a result up to 215 more veterans may have died.

The way that the hospital is retaliating against the whistleblower is by convening an administrative investigative board (AIB), a bureaucratic process that could lead to his dismissal based on employment violations.   The AIB was convened because employees were allegedly recruited by the hospital to file false allegations of hostile work environment against the whistleblower.  Accordingly, the whistleblower believes he is being targeting by the hospital for filing his claims with the Office of Inspector General.  Specifically, the whistleblower believes that he has been the victim of verbal assaults, whistleblower retaliation, violation of Title VII, harassment, and the denial of a position selected for at a higher GS Level by the Director.   This is in violation of the Whistleblower Protection Act.

In another instance of retaliation, our San Francisco based employment law attorneys report that a former Wells Fargo employee from Sonoma has filed a lawsuit against the bank, alleging that it retaliated after she became a whistleblower about illegal and aggressive sales tactics.  The whistleblower reported instances of fraudulent, illegal, and deceptive practices against Wells Fargo customers that led to harassment by her supervisors.  Specifically, according to the complaint, the whistleblower’s supervisors discriminated against her and subjected her to a hostile work environment.  It is of value to note that Retaliation complaints may still succeed even when the underlying whistleblower qui tam action fails.  See these blogs for examples.

Companies are often found to illegally bill the government for substandard services by fraudulently using higher diagnostic codes or by falsely certifying the medical necessity of medical procedures. Alternatively, these companies may realize that they have credit from their services that they have to repay to the government, but the companies do not reimburse the government within the 60 day time frame.  At that point, the nonpayment becomes a false claim. To combat retribution for filing FCA claims, the Health and Safety Code Section 1278.5 prohibits retaliation against patients, physicians, nurses and medical staff who whistleblow to the government or its agencies on patient care issues at a health care facility.  Even the IRS has been getting in on the action and recently reported that in Fiscal Year 2015 it paid out more than $103 million to whistleblowers resulting from settlements in successful lawsuits.

If you witness any potential false claims in California (i.e. requests for reimbursement to the government, not actually rendering work when reimbursement is received, or receiving and knowingly retaining an overpayment) by your company, or you are retaliated against for voicing your concern about potential wrongdoing, immediate action is crucial.  Contact the experienced employment law attorneys at Stephen Danz & Associates for a free consultation to discuss your circumstances and legal options.