If you have witnessed workplace violations in your place of employment or uncovered evidence that your employer is defrauding the government, you may feel that it is your duty to expose the wrongdoing. Calling out corporate misconduct and fraudulent behavior can be risky, but it is also the right thing to do. Various federal laws protect whistleblowers from retaliation after they expose illegal activity. If you follow each of the steps in the whistleblowing process properly, you could also receive a significant financial reward.
Before filing a claim under a whistleblower statute, such as the False Claims Act, you should familiarize yourself with the three main stages of a whistleblowing claim:
Step 1: Compile Evidence
The first thing you must do if you uncover fraudulent activity in your workplace is gather as much evidence of the wrongdoing as possible. Common types of evidence that whistleblowers use to expose corporate fraud include internal reviews, emails, notes from meetings, text messages, billing records, and other documentation. Before presenting your findings to the government, you’ll need this evidence to build a strong claim before. The more evidence you can provide, the more likely it is that the government will decide to take the case. The evidence must be confidential and not available through public sources.
Step 2: Present Evidence
The next step is to file a complaint under the False Claims Act, which is like filing a lawsuit. However, you will file your claim, known as a “qui tam” action, in a federal district court rather than a state court. Along with the complaint, you must include a disclosure statement that sets out all the evidence you’ve collected. The complaint will be kept under seal for at least 60 days. During this time, your identity will be hidden from the public and your employer.
Step 3: Federal Investigation
Once you’ve filed your complaint, the government will conduct an investigation of the allegations, starting with the evidence you included in your disclosure statement. This is the lengthiest part of the whistleblowing process. Your case and identity will remain confidential while the investigation is ongoing. Government officials may want to interview you and other witnesses as part of their probe, so you’ll need to be reachable and responsive during this time.
Once the authorities complete their investigation, they will decide whether to bring a case. If the government determines that it has sufficient evidence to proceed, you might be required to testify in court, which means you’ll have to reveal your identity. Still, your case stands a strong chance of being successful if the government decides to support it. If you win your case, you could be entitled to collect anywhere from 15 to 20 percent of whatever amount the government receives through a settlement or judgment.
If the government decides not to get involved, your chances of success will diminish, and pursuing the case on your own can be costly and time-consuming. However, if you and your attorney succeed, you could receive an even greater amount, typically between 25 and 30 percent of the total reward.
What If My Employer Retaliates Against Me for Blowing the Whistle on Fraudulent Activity?
If your employer takes retaliatory action against you for exposing their illicit activities, a whistleblower protection attorney can safeguard and enforce your rights. It is against the law for a company to terminate, demote, harass, or discriminate against an employee for voicing concerns about wrongdoing, but employers still do it sometimes.
If that happens to you, a whistleblower protection lawyer could help you seek remedies, including reinstatement, double back pay, and compensation for attorney’s fees and other costs.
Contact a Whistleblower Protection Attorney
At The Vaughn Law Firm, our attorneys can help you through every step of the whistleblowing process and ensure that your rights are protected. Contact us for a consultation at 877-615-9495 to discuss the details of your case.