What are qui tam whistleblower retaliation lawsuits? Individuals can bring qui tam whistleblower lawsuits under the federal False Claims Act. The federal False Claims Act rewards whistleblowers who notify the government about fraud. Qui tam lawsuits provide a way for whistleblowers to assist the government in stopping several different types of fraud. When the government recovers funds stolen from taxpayers and the U.S, Treasury, they have the power to reward whistleblowers financially. The phrase qui tam is short for the phrase “qui tam pro domino rege quam pro se ipso in hac parte sequitur.” This Latin phrase means “he who brings an action for the king as well as for himself.” In qui tam whistleblower lawsuits, the person who brings an action that benefits the government will also benefit himself or herself because the government will reward him or her.
Qui tam whistleblower retaliation lawsuits can be some of the most complex types of federal lawsuits. In many cases, employers retaliate against employees who act as whistleblowers and inform the government of fraud. Employers have fired employees and discriminate against them for informing the government about fraud. Qui tam whistleblower retaliation is illegal under federal law. If your employer has retaliated against you for acting as a whistleblower, or if you’re concerned about retaliation, we can help. At Lipsky Lowe LLP, we focus our law firm exclusively on assisting clients in employment law matters. We will help you protect yourself from retaliation, and seek compensation, when possible. Contact our New York City law firm today to schedule your initial consultation.
What Is the New York False Claims Act?
New York state enacted its own version of the False Claims Act. The New York False Claims Act allows whistleblowers to bring a lawsuit in the name of the State of New York. Whistleblowers can file a lawsuit under the New York False Claims Act to expose fraud against the state of New York and local governments.
The New York False Claims Act is a broad and far-reaching statute. Every year, citizens file lawsuits on behalf of state and local governments under the New York False Claims Act. Many of these lawsuits involve health care fraud and fraudulent government contracts. It also provides remedies for whistleblowers.
Who Has the Right to Act as a Whistleblower and File a Qui Tam Lawsuit?
The False Claims Act gives any private citizen a right to sue a business or another person that is defrauding the government. Citizens can file lawsuits “qui tam,” which means “under seal.” Nobody except for government officials will have access to the content of the lawsuit. This secrecy gives the government enough time to investigate the fraud allegation.
You may be worried about immediate retaliation from the individual or business who committed fraud. The person charged with fraud will not know about the qui tam case while federal employees conduct an investigation. Typically, courts seal qui tam cases for 60 days, but they will often extend the seal as needed.
Understanding the Qui Tam Lawsuit Process
After filing the lawsuit, the government will investigate the fraud allegations with the assistance of the whistleblower’s attorney. They will decide whether or not to intervene or join in the case. When the government decides not to intervene, you can still bring the qui tam case on your own. When the court determines that defendants are liable of fraud under the False Claims Act, the defendants often have to pay the government back up to three times its losses. For example, if the court found that the defendant engaged in $200,000 of fraud, it could make the defendant pay back $600,000. Guilty defendants will also need to pay additional penalties for every false claim. Many qui tam cases become resolved through settlement negotiations, yet some go to trial.
Rewards for Qui Tam Whistleblowers
The government protects whistleblowers due to the personal and professional risks for exposing fraud against the government. The government will also give whistleblowers rewards. The amount of the reward depends on the quality of the case and the amount of the settlement. Whistleblowers often receive anywhere from 15 to 30 percent of the recovery.
Who Can File a Qui Tam Whistleblower Retaliation Lawsuit?
Federal law explicitly addresses protection from whistleblower retaliation. To succeed in a whistleblower retaliation lawsuit, you will need to prove all of the elements by a preponderance of the evidence. Who can file a whistleblower retaliation claim? Only the following people can file a whistleblower retaliation claim:
- An employee, who was
- Discriminated against
- By his or her employer
- Because of the lawful actions taken by the employee
- In the furtherance of a claim made under the Federal Claims Act
Which Whistleblowers Are Prohibited from Filing a Qui Tam Whistleblower Retaliation Lawsuit?
Federal employees do not have a right to sue for retaliation under the Federal Claims Act. The federal government must expressly waive its sovereign immunity. Federal employee whistleblowers have other means to sue for whistleblowing retaliation, such as the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978. Additionally, state employees cannot sue for retaliation under the FCA. The eleventh amendment grants states sovereign immunity. According to the Supreme Court, states are not considered “persons” under the Federal Claims Act.
Succeeding in a Qui Tam Whistleblower Retaliation Lawsuit
The whistleblower must prove that his or her employer discriminated against him or her because of the whistleblowing activity. To prove that discrimination occurred, the whistleblower must prove the following:
- The employer had knowledge that the employee was engaged in whistleblowing, and
- The employee’s engagement in a protected activity was the motivation of the retaliation
When a court decides in favor of the whistleblower who suffered retaliation, the court will give him or her enough relief to make the whistleblower whole. Relief will include the following:
- Restatement to the employee’s position at the proper level of seniority
- Twice the amount of back pay, if the employer fired the employee
- Interest on the back pay
- Compensation for special damages, such as litigation costs and attorney fees
- Special damages for emotional distress caused by the retaliation
Our Qui Tam Whistleblower Retaliation Lawyers Can Help
If you are considering filing a whistleblower claim, or you’ve suffered retaliation after acting as a whistleblower, you will benefit from the use of a skilled employment lawyer. Acting quickly is essential when it comes to whistleblower claims. At Lipsky Lowe LLP, we have the experience and skill to help you through the qui tam whistleblowing process. The legal process is quite complex, and the risk of retaliation is often high. Working with our law firm will help you feel reassured that experienced lawyers are fighting for your best interests.