Speaking up about wrongdoing that you have witnessed is more difficult than it looks. We can all think of people who seem to get a kick out of exposing other people’s flaws and misdeeds, whether in person or on social media, but one can hardly describe their actions as courageous. Full-time busybodies and tattletales all seem to have one thing in common, namely that they personally are unlikely to face negative consequences as a result of getting other people in trouble. They choose targets that are unlikely to retaliate against them. Ratting out your employer is a rather more complicated matter because you rely on your employment income in order to afford necessities, and if your employer is unhappy about you revealing unpleasant truths, then it is easy enough for your employer to fire you. Of course, firing someone in retaliation for reporting misconduct is against the law, but your employer is banking on the fact that newly unemployed workers have fewer resources with which to engage in legal disputes than big corporations do. The Spokane whistleblower claims lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP can help you protect yourself from retaliation in the wake of reporting misconduct at your place of employment.
Reporting Misconduct at Your Workplace is a Protected Activity
Employers do not like it when employees get them in trouble and subject them to penalties and fines by reporting violations of regulations because doing so causes the company to lose money. Your employer might take adverse action against you, such as demoting you, denying you a raise, firing you, or just making your time at work generally stressful and unpleasant. From a legal standpoint, though, if you report violations at your workplace, and your employer punishes you for it, you are right, and your employer is wrong.
In the context of employment law, reporting misconduct or legal violations in the workplace is a legally protected activity, which means that it is against the law for your employer to retaliate against you for it. In fact, many of the activities that federal and state laws list as protected from employer retaliation have to do with whistleblower actions, which are formal reports by employees of unethical or illegal actions that they have witnessed on the part of their employers. The following are examples of legally protected whistleblower actions:
- Reporting a work injury that you personally suffered (you must do this in order to file a workers’ compensation claim)
- Reporting a workplace safety violation to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), even if the unsafe conditions have not yet resulted in any accidental injuries
- Participating in inspections and audits of your workplace by regulatory bodies, even when your thorough and honest participation would reveal information that reflects negatively on your employer
- Filing a qui tam action pursuant to the federal False Claims Act
- Filing a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
- Participating in an EEOC investigation into a complaint filed by another employee in your organization
- Notifying law enforcement about criminal activity that you have witnessed in your workplace
- Cooperating in a criminal investigation related to incidents that allegedly took place at your place of employment or involved your work supervisors
Snitches Get Riches, But Only if They Hire an Employment Lawyer
When employees report misconduct at their places of employment, things tend to get ugly quickly. Employer retaliation is a near certainty, whether it comes in the form of a hostile work environment or termination of employment. If your employer fires you in retaliation for a whistleblower action, you have the right to file an employer retaliation lawsuit in connection to your whistleblower claim. If you win your case, the court will order your employer to pay you an amount equivalent to the financial losses you suffered as a result of your employer retaliating against you. In many cases, employment discrimination, employer retaliation, and whistleblower claims overlap. No matter the nature of your employment-related whistleblower claim, the Spokane employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP are the best ones to help you pursue it.
Qui Tam Actions: Whistleblower Claims Involving Fraud That Harms Federal Entities
Reporting any kind of misconduct in your workplace is a protected activity, but the laws and procedures are somewhat different when the misconduct takes the form of fraudulent activities that cause federal programs to suffer preventable financial losses. In this case, the whistleblower action must follow the procedures laid out in the False Claims Act of 1863.
As its name suggests, the False Claims Act has been on the books since Abraham Lincoln was president. During the Civil War, many vendors who provided food and supplies for the Army grossly inflated the prices of their products or misrepresented the condition of the products they were selling. As a result, Congress passed the False Claims Act, which states that employees who notify the government that their employers are defrauding the government have a right to receive a percentage of the settlement or judgment that a court orders the employer to pay in an ensuing lawsuit. The same applies if the lawsuit results in a settlement agreed upon by the two parties instead of in a court-ordered money judgment. The lawsuit in which a whistleblower sues on his or her own behalf as well as on behalf of the government is called a qui tam action.
Today, most qui tam actions involve employees of healthcare providers that make false statements when billing Medicare or Medicaid. If you have evidence that your employer is not being truthful on Medicare or Medicaid claims, the first step is to contact a Spokane whistleblower claims lawyer.
Contact HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP About Whistleblower Claims
It is easier to speak out against injustice when you know that your legal rights are protected. The Spokane employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP can help you report misconduct at your workplace, even if doing so makes you vulnerable to employer retaliation. Contact the employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP in Spokane, Washington, to set up a consultation.