For an individual who learns that a company, often his or her employer, is engaged in fraud on the government, whether it’s Health Care Fraud, Defense Contractor Fraud, Mortgage Fraud or otherwise, the decision to blow the whistle can be overwhelming. Your reputation, your career and sometimes your safety may be at stake. This is also true even if you are not working for or did not work for the company you are reporting on.
Federal False Claims Act Anti-Retaliation Provision
The Federal False Claims Act includes an anti-retaliation provision protecting whistleblowers from employer retaliation. This provision prohibits an employer from acting against a whistleblower employee “because of lawful acts done by the employee … in furtherance of an action” to stop violations of the False Claims Act. 31 U.S.C. §3730(h).
The Federal False Claims Act Anti-Retaliation Provision prohibits termination, suspension, demotion, harassment or any form of discrimination in the terms and conditions of employment. In order to successfully rely upon this whistleblower protection, a whistleblower employee must prove: (1) that the employee took action in furtherance of a False Claims Act action; (2) that the employer knew about these acts; and (3) that the employer discriminated against the employee because of such conduct. Your whistleblower legal team can also help guide you through protections and ensure that you are taking every measure to successfully and safely become a whistleblower. These are matters to discuss immediately with an experienced and well-resourced law firm. Hagens Berman can thoroughly advise you of the implications of this provision for you and your family. It is imperative that you consult an attorney immediately upon determining that you are being retaliated against.
Employers who choose to violate the False Claims Act’s Anti-Retaliation provision can face substantial punishment for actions taken against a whistleblower employee. The False Claims Act provides that the relief from retaliation includes reinstatement with the same seniority status, twice the amount of back pay, plus interest, “and compensation for any special damages sustained as a result of the discrimination, including litigation costs and reasonable attorneys’ fees.” 31 U.S.C. § 3730(h)(2).
Additionally, a whistleblower can receive protection regardless of whether a whistleblower lawsuit has been filed under the False Claims Act. Conducting a fraud investigation without knowledge of the existence of the False Claims Act is still considered action “in furtherance of” efforts to stop the fraud prohibited by the False Claims Act. This protection ensures that those who plan to file a whistleblower case and take action, but never fully file a whistleblower action, cannot face retaliation.
The False Claims Act Retaliation Provision in full:
(h) Relief From Retaliatory Actions.—
1) In general.— Any employee, contractor, or agent shall be entitled to all relief necessary to make that employee, contractor, or agent whole, if that employee, contractor, or agent is discharged, demoted, suspended, threatened, harassed, or in any other manner discriminated against in the terms and conditions of employment because of lawful acts done by the employee, contractor, agent or associated others in furtherance of an action under this section or other efforts to stop 1 or more violations of this subchapter.
(2) Relief.— Relief under paragraph (1) shall include reinstatement with the same seniority status that employee, contractor, or agent 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 action under this subsection may be brought in the appropriate district court of the United States for the relief provided in this subsection.
(3) Limitation on bringing civil action.— A civil action under this subsection may not be brought more than 3 years after the date when the retaliation occurred.