You may work in healthcare or for a government contractor and you discover fraud. Maybe people are skimming off the top. Maybe there are cases of false billing, services ordered and not rendered, expensive equipment billed for and lesser equipment delivered in its place, prescriptions written for higher doses when the patient only got half the dosage, and more. Whatever the circumstance, if you've discovered something amiss, what can you do? And, if you do report your company for fraud, can you get fired for whistleblowing?
Can you get fired?
The short answer is yes, you can get fired for whistleblowing but not permanently. You may lose your job, be demoted, or suffer other adverse employment action as a result of whistleblowing. But the positive result is that by law an employer cannot retaliate against an employee for reporting wrongdoing committed by that employer. So, they can fire you, demote you, or threaten you, but once the case is finished, you will not only receive a large chunk of compensation for recovering stolen government funds, but you will also have your job reinstated, you could be awarded back pay or double back pay, and have your attorney fees covered. Mississippi Code 25-9-171, et seq. also notes that employers cannot "dismiss or otherwise adversely affect the compensation or employment status if employee testifies or provides information to an investigative body" so, in other words, your employer will be in big trouble if they retaliate.
Is whistleblowing worth the risk? Am I protected?
We think the answer is yes, it is worth the risk because you'd be doing the right thing. There's no single protective law, but whistleblowers are protected. OSHA enforces 22 whistleblower laws that protect relators in each state. Mississippi protects public employees at the state level only, but there are federal protections that apply to whistleblowers who believe a private company is guilty of defrauding the government. The best way to understand if you are protected and the laws that do protect you is to consult with a Mississippi whistleblower attorney.
My employer is retaliating. What can I do?
Gather any evidence of retaliation such as copies of your performance record. Strong reviews can defend against demotion because you can demonstrate that your present action is the only mark against you. Get a copy of your personnel file. Your file may contain handwritten notes that members of management have made about you. If your employer won't let you see your file, in the lawsuit, they can compel the file to be presented. But, if possible, gather evidence before the employer is aware of what you plan to do that way you can avoid some of the negative consequences. Build a strong case to show that, if you've experienced retaliation, it's only because of your actions.
Some companies mistreat whistleblowers by firing them, blacklisting them, not hiring or re-hiring them, demoting or denying promotion, denying overtime or benefits, intimidating, harassing or threatening employees, reducing hours or pay, and disciplining employees, but if you gather the right evidence you can be compensated appropriately when the case has been filed.
How do I gather evidence for my case?
Your attorney can advise you on how to gather the right evidence for your case, but generally you want to preserve any communication between you and management; save emails, letters, notes, memos, and voicemails to provide evidence; document any relevant conversations and anything pertaining to retaliation; summarize all evidence, sign, and date it. Gather any paperwork copies you can get hold of, photocopies, photo and video evidence and more. Contact an attorney when you have evidence or - better yet - before you have gathered evidence to know what you need to find to strengthen and prove your case.
If you have questions regarding a potential case, don't hesitate to give us a call:
Do you think you have a qui tam lawsuit? Find out how to take action now.
Many qui tam cases have strict time limits (sometimes as few as 30 days), so if you have a case, you'll need to act now. Download our free guide to Whistleblowing on Medicare and Medicaid fraud and find out the next steps you as a whistleblower can take to seek justice. Coxwell & Associates, PLLC, has over 36 years of legal experience working on these lawsuits, and winning cases in Jackson, Hinds County, Mississippi. We handle serious cases all over the state.
Disclaimer: This blog is intended as general information purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Anyone with a legal problem should consult a lawyer immediately.