No one likes a tattle tale, but sometimes exposing someone else’s wrongdoing is the only way to stop them from causing further harm. People who report misconduct by their employers to regulatory bodies are popularly referred to as whistleblowers, and while a few whistleblowers get a hero’s welcome in the media for drawing the public’s attention to unethical practices by big corporations, the only thanks that most whistleblowers get is becoming persona non grata at work and getting harassed, slandered, demoted, or fired from their jobs. In many cases, retaliation against employees who report discrimination or other types of misconduct or violations of the law by their employers is against the law, and employees who suffer wrongful termination of employment have the right to sue their former employers for damages. The Alabama whistleblower claims lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP can help you report illegal or unethical actions on the part of your employer while protecting your rights.
Reporting Misconduct by Your Employer
Federal law prohibits employers from retaliating against their employees for reporting misconduct or violations of official regulations by their employers. Without whistleblowers reporting this wrongdoing, though, the public would suffer financial losses or worse. The following are some examples of misconduct reported by whistleblowers working in the public and private sectors:
- Discrimination against you or another employee
- Intentionally misleading customers or the public
- Falsifying records in order to defraud clients or shareholders or to cover up wrongdoing
- Retaliation against you or another employee for taking FMLA leave, filing a workers’ compensation claim, or requesting an accommodation for a disability
- Workplace safety violations
The prohibited retaliation might take the form of any type of adverse action, including unlawful termination of employment, reduction in pay, or creating a hostile work environment.
Qui Tam Lawsuits and the False Claims Act
The False Claims Act is a federal law that sets guidelines for whistleblower claims in instances where the victim of the misconduct is the federal government (and therefore the taxpayers whose money was wasted due to the misconduct), as well as protecting the whistleblowers. The law was instituted in 1863, when President Lincoln sought to discourage companies that sold goods to the federal government from dishonest business practices such as charging exorbitant amounts for defective merchandise.
The False Claims Act set out the procedures for a type of whistleblower claim known as a qui tam action. If you have evidence that your employer is defrauding the federal government (for example, if your employer, a doctor’s office, has been billing Medicare for services never provided), you can report the action to the government, and the government will sue your employer. If the court orders your employer to pay damages, you as the whistleblower get a percentage of the damages paid. In other words, the whistleblower brings the lawsuit against the employer “on behalf of himself” (“qui tam” in Latin) and also on behalf of the government; it is as if you are suing your employer and adding the government as a plaintiff.
Situations that warrant qui tam actions (reporting Medicare and Medicaid fraud is one of the most common kinds) practically have retaliation built into them. Would you want to keep issuing someone a paycheck after they sued you? The False Claims Act seems to assume that the employer will fire the employee in retaliation for bringing the qui tam action, and the percentage of the judgment paid to the whistleblower employee is to compensate the employee for the retaliation.
Whistleblower Protection Laws in Alabama
Alabama has several state laws that protect whistleblowers who report certain kinds of misconduct by their employers. If you meet with an Alabama whistleblower claims lawyer, your lawyer will help determine how the state laws that pertain to your case can offer you protection even beyond what federal whistleblower protection laws provide:
- The Alabama State Employee Protection Act of 2012 protects non-probationary state employees who report violations of the law by their employers. This law defines “reporting” as filing a grievance, testifying under oath, or submitting a signed affidavit. (If the state employee’s status is probationary, the law still offers some protection, but not as much as for non-probationary employees.)
- Alabama Code 25.1.21 protects from retaliation employees who complain about age discrimination or participate in an investigation into an age discrimination complaint. Federal and state law protect employees ages 40 and up from discrimination based on age.
Alabama Code 25-5-11.1 prohibits retaliation against employees who file workers’ compensation claims or who report workplace safety violations to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
- Alabama Code 25.8.7 protects employees who report violations of child labor laws from retaliation. The law limits the number of hours and the times of day that people under the age of 18 may work, and the youngest age at which people may hold paid employment is 14.
Think Before You Speak
Before you file a whistleblower claim, it is important to do your research, with the help of an Alabama whistleblower claims lawyer. First, you should make sure that you have compelling and specific evidence of the violations, fraud, or misconduct you are reporting. Second, you should have a plan for your financial survival if and when your employer terminates your employment in retaliation. The best way to develop such a strategy is to work with the Alabama whistleblower claims lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP starting from before you report the misconduct.
Contact an Alabama Employment Lawyer About Whistleblower Claims
Your employer is not supposed to retaliate against you for helping to ensure that your employer follows the law, but most people, perhaps including your work supervisors, do not like to be told that they are wrong. An Alabama whistleblower claims lawyer can help you protect yourself against termination of employment or other forms of retaliation if you have evidence of fraud, safety violations, discrimination, or some other type of misconduct at your place of employment. Contact the Alabama whistleblower claims lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP to set up a consultation.