It is easy to think that you would intervene or speak up when you witness injustice, but taking a stand against unethical actions is not as easy as it seems when it requires risking losing the job on which you depend for financial support and jeopardizing your chances for future employment. Employees’ fear of retaliation if they report unethical acts by their supervisors or employers is reasonable; employment discrimination laws specifically prohibit retaliation against employees who complain about employment discrimination and who request workplace accommodations for their disabilities. The law also protects you against retaliation if you report wrongdoing by your employer even when you were not the target of the wrongdoing. Your efforts to report wrongdoing by your employer will be much more successful, and you will have much more protection against retaliation, the sooner you contact the Charlotte whistleblower claims lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP.
Speaking Up About Injustice and Dishonesty in Your Workplace
Even the most idealistic people do not expect the decision-making members of corporations and government offices to act in an entirely altruistic manner, but the law requires them to avoid causing preventable physical and financial harm to their employees, the intended beneficiaries of their work, and the public. A person who complains to regulatory authorities, law enforcement, or people in positions of authority in the company about wrongdoing and illegal actions within the place of employment, when those actions do not directly harm the person complaining, is known as a whistleblower. The following are just some of the situations where employees have acted as whistleblowers:
- Managers embezzling money from a company or government office
- Employees of a bank or financial services company defrauding clients or committing identity theft by using the clients’ financial information without their consent
- A company failing to follow safety standards, thereby putting its employees, customers, or anyone who comes into contact with its products at risk of injury
- Widespread discrimination or sexual harassment in a place of employment, whether or not the whistleblower was a target of this behavior
These breaches of ethics and violations of the law take place on such a large scale and at such high levels of authority that simply complaining about it to your direct supervisor would not stop the problem. Most likely, if you simply complained to your supervisor or to human resources, your employer would probably just retaliate against you, such as by firing you, and then the unethical or dangerous actions continue. In other words, you would be harmed, and so would many other people. Therefore, you should be strategic and work with a whistleblower claims lawyer when speaking out against widespread injustice and misconduct at your place of employment.
Qui Tam Actions and the False Claims Act
The False Claims Act is a federal law that has been on the books since 1863; its original purpose was to fight corruption among businesses that sold supplies to the United States Army during the Civil War. The federal government lost large sums of money because of suppliers that knowingly sold defective goods to the Army, intentionally inflated the prices of the merchandise they were selling, or never delivered the products for which the Army had paid. Today the law is applicable to companies that do business with any entity, military or civilian, belonging to the federal government. Think about how many people you have met who work for government contractors, and you will have an idea of how many opportunities there are for unfair business dealings with the government. A large percentage of lawsuits filed pursuant to the False Claims Act have to do with physicians and hospitals overcharging Medicare and Medicaid for services provided to patients, or even billing Medicare and Medicaid for services they never provided.
When government contractors and businesses that receive payment through publicly funded programs defraud the government, they are doing so at the expense of taxpayers, and the financial losses affect everyone. Therefore, if you break your silence about your employer’s fraudulent business dealings with government entities, it is for the public good. The first step is to file a qui tam notice with the U.S. Department of Justice, preferably with the help of your lawyer. In your notice, you should be as specific as possible about what you have witnessed your employer doing and what financial losses it has caused the government. Over the next 60 days, the Department of Justice will conduct an investigation into the veracity of the claims in your notice and will decide whether it has grounds to file a lawsuit against your employer. If the Department of Justice sues your employer and the court orders your employer to pay damages, then you are entitled to a share of the damages award. Whistleblowers in qui tam cases usually receive 15% to 25% of the damages paid by their employers. This amount is meant to provide a financial cushion, since filing a qui tam action usually means cutting ties with your current employer and many prospective employers.
The North Carolina False Claims Act
North Carolina has its own False Claims Act at the state level. It provides for qui tam actions similar to those filed in federal court, except that in this case, it applies to employers who defraud or otherwise cause harm to the state government, and the party you should notify is the Attorney General of North Carolina. As in federal qui tam cases, you are entitled to 15% to 25% of damages awarded in the case.
Contact a North Carolina Employment Lawyer About Whistleblower Claims
A whistleblower claims lawyer can help you navigate the process of exposing safety violations, corruption, or other harms to the public good that are being perpetrated in your workplace. Your lawyer will help you protect your own safety and financial interests while preventing further wrongdoing by your employer; filing a qui tam action is one of the remedies available to you. Contact the employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP in Charlotte, North Carolina to set up a consultation.