Let’s suppose you are a good employee. Then you complain to your manager that you discovered that your company has been fraudulently billing the government millions of dollars for services it has never delivered. Suddenly you receive a negative performance review after years of good, positive reviews and raises, or, your manager “discovers” that you committed some violation of company policy, writes you up, and you are terminated. Maybe you threatened to complain to an outside agency or you complained to your manager only. You blew the whistle and now you are being punished for it. You are a whistleblower.
Do you have a whistleblower claim? You may have a claim for whistleblower retaliation under the federal False Claims Act (FCA), 31 U.S.C. 3729 et seq. This post will provide an overview of the FCA and potential obstacles you may face. Future posts in this series will focus on state whistleblower claims under Labor Code 1102.5. For now we will discuss the federal whistleblower statute. So, why would you want to file a whistleblower claim?
First, as a private individual, you can bring a qui tam claim on behalf of the government to sue the wrongdoer to collect treble (triple) damages and civil penalties against entities who submit false claims or use false claims to obtain payments from the U.S. government. Qui tam is Latin for “[he] who sues in this matter for the king as well for himself.” You would be referred to as a “relator” or a “whistleblower.” If your case is successful, you would be entitled to a percentage of recovery, typically between 20-30%.
But first, you need to file the lawsuit under seal and serve it on the U.S. Government through the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). The DOJ investigates whether the U.S. government wants to get involved in this case and litigate it. This investigation can take months or years. The U.S. government has a right to conduct this investigation since you, the relator/whistleblower, are suing on the U.S. government’s behalf. If the DOJ declines to intervene in the case, it will issue a letter of declination, and you are free to litigate the case. The DOJ retains the right to intervene at any time.
You will also need to make sure that your disclosures pass the “public disclosure bar,” that you are the “first to file,” and that you observe the statute of limitations. Given the complexity of these topics, we will cover them in subsequent posts.
On February 4, 2016, Stephen Danz took part in a whistleblower webinar for trial attorneys nationwide and shared his tips on trying federal whistleblower retaliation claims. Stay tuned for the link to our website where you can find the presentation that Stephen Danz and Associates put together for the webinar. With over thirty years of experience litigating whistleblower claims and representing whistleblowers across all industries, the Los Angeles whistleblower attorneys at Stephen Danz and Associates are happy to talk to you if you think you are being retaliated against by your employer for blowing the whistle. Contact us today for your free consultation.