If you suspect fraud in your workplace, it's important to report it. Whether it's a hospital, dental surgery, your corporate office, or a state or federal agency, it's your duty as a tax-paying citizen to protect public funds from misuse. The government has put laws in place to protect those whose aim is to recover mishandled government, tax-payer funds. What is the whistleblower protection act, and which states does it apply to?
The Whistleblower Protection Act
The Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 protects those who whistleblow and report agency misconduct. The government prohibits any retaliation against persons who blow the whistle such as removing them from their job, demoting them, failing to promote them, garnishing wages, threatening them and so forth.
The False Claims Act
Furthermore, whistleblowers are protected when they file qui tam lawsuits to protect the government from fraud in Medicaid and Medicare under the False Claims Act (FCA). Relators, or whistleblowers, are entitled to 15-30% of the money recovered in such cases. Since 1987, when the FCA was enacted, relators have helped the government recover 38.9 billion dollars in stolen or misspent funds. Some relators have won settlements of thousands to millions as well as the cost of legal representation.
The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC)
If a whistleblower or relator is retaliated against by the company which they are exposing, then the OSC has jurisdiction over any whistleblower retaliation enacted by employees. In 2012, an addendum was added to the Whistleblower Protection Act to protect federal employees disclosing evidence of waste, fraud, or abuse of the system.
Which States are Protected?
The simple answer is that all employees in all states are protected; however, some states have additional protections.
The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) outlines which states have additional whistleblower protection, outside of federal protections: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Washington, and West Virginia.
States such as Alaska, for example, can fine employers up to $10,000 in compensation, punitive damage, and civil fines for punishing whistleblowers.
These states have only federal provisions, however, that does not mean those who blow the whistle are not protected: Arkansas, Washington DC, Georgia, Idaho, Maryland, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
The US Department of Labor outlines the Whistleblower Protection Programs that apply to all states. Many states do not protect employees if the information provided turns out to be false, which is why it's essential to hire an attorney to help you with your legal proceedings and to determine if you have a solid case.
What if I Suspect Fraud in My Workplace?
If you suspect fraud where you work, quietly and discreetly gather as much evidence as you can. Record phone conversations, print out emails, photocopy or photograph documents, safeguard and safe-keep anything that can be used for evidence. Then consult a trusted attorney immediately. Some cases have time limits such as you may only have 30 or 60 days to file your lawsuit from the time of discovery. Furthermore, if the fraud is widely suspected, another employee may bring forth the evidence and only one case can proceed with one whistleblower, which means that you may miss out on the reward if the case is won.
From hospitals, nursing homes, and hospice facilities to drug companies, oil companies, and defense contractors, there are many corporations who defraud the government every day - from faulty billing to charging for one drug and switching it for another. Coxwell & Associates, PLLC has over 36 years of experience winning cases like yours. Download our free guide for everything you need to know about Qui Tam and whistleblowing lawsuits and get evey piece of information you need together before submitting your case.
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.