In civil litigation, there are two scenarios which invoke the term "whistleblower."
A "whistleblower" is the status claimed by an employee who alleges that he has been fired or disciplined as retaliation against some report or action he has undertaken to a governmental or law enforcement agency against some illegal conduct of his employer. Thus, a former employee who attempted to take action against his employer's illegal wage practices or unfair work conditions would claim this status (see California Labor Code section 1102.5) in his "wrongful termination" suit against his employer.
Then there is the subject of this article, in which a "whistleblower" alleges that a person or business has engaged in fraudulent conduct against a government agency which violates the federal False Claims Act (31 U.S.C. §3729, et seq.) or a state's False Claims Act (such as California's Government Code section 12650, et seq.)
What if you discover that your hospital or doctor has billed Medicare or Medicaid for procedures that were not performed, treatment for diagnoses which were false, or for visits which did not occur? If your employer was selling medical equipment to the Veterans Administration which did not and could not perform the diagnostic functions promised? Or if you worked on building an aircraft under contract with the U.S. Air Force and you discovered that parts which do not comply with specifications were consistently being installed on that aircraft? If an arbitrator hired to resolve issues in labor disputes is discovered to consistently billing the Labor Relations Board for time or expenses unrelated to the disputes? What can a person who uncovers fraud against her government do?
The mechanism for establishing the existence of the fraudulent conduct and recovering compensation for the government for that conduct is a court action called a "qui tam" action. "Qui tam" is the shorthand used for a Latin phrase meaning "for the benefit of the government and himself."
The "qui tam" plaintiff (called a "relator") files a complaint making the allegations "under seal" in the appropriate court. That confidential complaint is then sent to the government agency which has been defrauded, along with a disclosure statement which includes the evidence in the relator's possession about the conduct, for investigation and a decision on whether or not that agency wants to intervene in the lawsuit.
If the government agency intervenes, it takes over the primary prosecution but the relator can continue as a party. If the agency decides to not intervene, the court file is made public and the relator is free to serve the complaint on the fraudulent company and prosecute his action against the fraudulent company.
In order to prevent the filing and prosecution of "piggyback" suits, the "qui tam" relator must possess information which is first hand and private, or which if publicly released has originated with that person. He cannot make claims solely on the basis of entirely publicly known or disclosed information from other sources.
In the "qui tam" action, the court is authorized to impose a fine for each fraudulent claim [so the billing for thousands of un-performed procedures is thousands of false claims], plus an award of damages to the government agency for up to three times the losses caused by the fraud (treble damages). As a result, the government entity frequently recovers more than the actual loss it suffered. The relator has the right to receive a percentage of that recovery (the range depends on whether or not the government intervened in the action), as determined by the Court, plus his attorney's fees and court costs.
If you were fired for being a whistleblower
If you were fired because you knew of wrongdoing by your employer, please do not hesitate to call an experienced whistleblower attorney. Bisnar Chase has been handling wrongful termination cases for many years. We started our firm in 1978 and since then we have recovered millions of dollars in settments for personal injury victims.
Call us today for a Free Confidential Consultation.