Many workers suffer due to unfair and illegal practices of their employers or are forced to work in unsafe conditions. Employees worry about losing their jobs if they complain about the issues, or refuse to take part in illegal conduct, so they try to tolerate the working conditions as they are. If you are in any of these types of situations, you need to know that the law protects employees who “blow the whistle” on their employers when employers engage in illegal or unsafe practices or try to coerce employees into engaging in workplace actions that are illegal.
Who is Covered as a Whistleblower
A “whistleblower” is an employee who reports any violation of a local, state or federal law to a person or agency that has the authority to investigate the allegation. This includes reporting to law enforcement or any governmental regulatory agency.
The California Labor Code, section 1102.5 and the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), as well as 20 other federal statutes, specifically provide protection to employees from employers who engage in any retaliatory action against whistleblowers.
Employers Are Prohibited from Retaliating Against Whistleblowers
Retaliatory actions may be bold or subtle, but any retaliatory action is prohibited. For example, your employer may not:
- Fire you
- Transfer, demote or reduce your pay or working hours
- Reduce or deny you benefits
- Threaten you in any way
- Deny you a raise or promotion
NOTE: This is not a comprehensive list. Any unusual action that appears retaliatory is prohibited.
Remedies for Employer Retaliation Acts
California Labor Code section 1102.5 establishes remedies available to you if your employer has taken retaliatory action against you for being a whistleblower. Remedies include:
- Reinstatement in your job if you were fired
- Back wages that you would have earned if you had not been fired
- Any other damages you suffered due to the retaliatory action
If the retaliation came from a corporation or limited liability company, a $10,000 fine will be imposed for each violation and the employer may be charged criminally with a misdemeanor and be sentenced to spend up to one year in jail.
You must file your retaliation claim within a certain amount of time after the retaliatory act occurs. You need to discuss your case with an employment attorney as soon as possible so you do not lose your opportunity to collect damages for the retaliation. You may also be able to collect for the attorney fees you incurred in pursuit of your claim for damages.
Qui Tam Whistleblower Actions
What is a Qui Tam Action?
A Qui Tam lawsuit is a lawsuit authorized under the federal False Claims Act (31 U.S.C. § 3729 et seq.) that provides a method for ordinary citizens to file a claim against a company or individual who the whistleblower reasonably believes has committed fraud against the federal government. The False Claims Act provides a method by which a private citizen may sue to recover funds on the government’s behalf.
Requirements for Filing a Qui Tam Whistleblower Action
Qui Tam cases are usually filed under seal, meaning that no information is made public, at first. Evidence is typically then presented to the appropriate government agencies, which may assist in or take over the investigation and prosecution of the case.
Qui Tam cases are often difficult prove. Typically a strong showing of fraud committed against the government is required; mismanagement alone may not be sufficient. For example, you must have some evidence that the person you are alleging was fraudulent in collecting money from the government, or in filing a fraudulent income tax return, or committed some other sort of fraud.
There are other certain requirements for being a proper “relator” (i.e., the whistleblower who provided information regarding the alleged fraud) in a Qui Tam action. Among other requirements, there is a “public disclosure bar,” meaning that if the information about which the employee is blowing the whistle was obtained from a public source, you may not be entitled to any reward for being a relator. Additionally, you must be the “first to file” the Qui Tam action. So, if another employee had provided information regarding the employer’s fraud prior to you, you may not be entitled to receipt of any reward.
Remedies for Qui Tam Whistleblowers
Qui Tam cases are difficult and have a number of legal requirements. But if the government intervenes and wins the case, the whistleblower stands to receive a substantial reward, including a percentage of the amount ultimately recovered from the defendant(s).
If you believe you have any type of whistleblower case, or have been retaliated against by your employer, contact us at The Aslanian Law Firm, P.C. at (626) 696-2001 for a FREE CONSULTATION.
The material on this web site has been prepared and is copyrighted by The Aslanian Law Firm, PC. The material is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. The material is not guaranteed to be correct, complete, or up to date.Comments are closed.