After a whistleblower’s report kicked off an inquiry and the eventual impeachment of the President of the United States, some Washington insiders publicly questioned the identity of the reporter. Others warned against actions that might even appear retaliatory. While the tumult in our government has caused a high-profile discussion on whistleblower rights and protections, it is hardly the only sector to grapple with ethics and legality in the situation. When nonpublic information is revealed, executives and other implicated individuals must step carefully to avoid violating the law.
Attorney Spohrer, along with Attorney Dave Rodziewicz, published an article in the January/February 2020 issue of the Florida Bar Journal examining qui tam claims and the False Claims Act (FCA). The article reached over 100,000 Florida lawyers in the bar with an overview of the requirements for a qui tam suit and the potential for further liability among employers who respond in unlawful ways.
The U.S. government has long contracted with private entities to provide supplies and services that exceed the bounds of its capabilities. For just as long, dishonest businesses have attempted to defraud the government. Officials may catch on to dishonest billing or faulty products and services, but much more often, the corruption is reported by a company official who spots the disinformation. Under the False Claims Act (FCA), someone with sufficient knowledge and evidence of fraud can file a qui tam suit on behalf of the government.
The law recognizes the unique vulnerability a whistleblower calls upon themself. Most qui tam claims are brought by higher-ups who have access to full financial and delivery reports. By reporting irregularities to the government, a whistleblower risks sacrificing a career that has taken years, or even decades, to build.
As a remedy, the government offers two guarantees to any would-be reporters who are unsure whether to move forward:
Once a whistleblower has raised concerns, either in private to others at their company or publicly via a suit, open letter, or any other method, they have engaged in a “protected activity” for which they cannot be fired. When a report concerns activities funded or regulated by the federal government, the FCA provides mechanisms for the reporter to challenge presumed retaliation. Terminations that are rushed, that follow internal or external complaints, or without documentation or sufficient reason can put an employer in hot water, legally.
If you have questions or think you have a claim, Attorney Spohrer and the rest of our team is here to lend our experience to your cause. Read the article he co-wrote to learn more (linked above)—and let us know if you’ve engaged in FCA-protected behaviors and faced retaliation of any sort.
Our attorneys are here to help whistleblowers and other reporters who come forward with important disclosures. Contact us online with your case or call us at (904) 637-7721.