False Claims Act Whistleblower Ruling
Court Expands Protections
Continued Retaliation Against Former Employees
Cases brought against companies that defraud the federal government are brought under the False Claims Act (FCA), 31 U.S.C. § 3729 et seq. Cases under the FCA may be brought by the government, but are most often brought by individuals bringing actions on behalf of the government because those individuals may have original information of the fraud being perpetrated against the government. The individual plaintiffs are referred to as whistleblowers or “relators.” Their cases (known as qui tam cases) are initiated by filing a complaint on behalf of the government, under seal, and providing a copy of the complaint and a statement regarding their evidence to the government for evaluation. 31 U.S.C. § 3730(b). Plaintiffs/relators may be eligible for a reward if the government ultimately recovers from the wrongdoer. 31 U.S.C. §3730(d). If the plaintiff/relator is a current employee, the employee/relator is protected from employer retaliation for bringing a qui tam case. 31 U.S.C. § 3730(h). You may be entitled to sue your employer and seek double back pay (with interest), reinstatement, reasonable attorneys’ fees, and reimbursement for certain costs in connection with the litigation. 31 U.S.C. § 3730(h)(2).). If you have credible information for an FCA qui tam case on behalf of the federal government in Los Angeles, Orange County or elsewhere in California, call us today at (415)441-8669 and we can help.
Expanding Protections Against Retaliation
A recent federal appellate court decision expands the protection for former employees for retaliation by their employer even after the employee has been terminated. Under the ruling, employers can be held responsible under the FCA for post-employment retaliatory actions against former employees who blew the whistle on alleged fraud by the company. While the decision conflicts with rulings by most district courts and the one other appellate court to have addressed this issue, it may be a source for additional protection for whistleblowers.
The whistleblower in the case was a neurologist employed by a Detroit hospital. In a complaint for wrongful termination, he alleged that he experienced blacklisting in retaliation for reporting fraud by the hospital. According to the complaint, after the hospital terminated his employment, it maligned him, jeopardizing his applications to almost 40 academic institutions and future employment in his field. In holding that the FCA prohibits post-employment retaliation, the Sixth Circuit first concluded that the text of the FCA does not clearly indicate whether the act’s anti-retaliation provision applies to retaliation suffered after leaving the job. Despite that ambiguity, the court said, the FCA’s use of the word “employee” contains no temporal limitation, and the framework and purpose of the statute supported interpreting the act to apply to former employees when retaliation is inflicted post-employment. The court also found that the phrase “terms and conditions of employment” does not limit the applicable time period. Terms and conditions of employment, such as severance payments or confidentiality agreements, can persist after a job ends. The more specific types of retaliation listed, such as “threatened” or “harassed” can also occur post-employment and are not clearly controlled by the provision’s general catchall phrase, “any other manner discriminated against in the terms and conditions of employment.” The court also said that several of the FCA’s remedies for retaliation could apply to post-employment retaliation.
What The Ruling Means For Whistleblowers
Employees now have strong authority to point to when they seek compensation for retaliation by their former employers. The availability of remedies under the FCA for whistleblowers who experience post-employment retaliation is far from certain, however. The matter may only be fully resolved if either the Supreme Court or Congress takes action. Nevertheless, until the question is conclusively resolved, the case provides good authority for plaintiffs seeking to recover for post-employment retaliation by their employers. Evans Law Firm, Inc. can represent you in any action for retaliation as well as represent you in your underlying whistleblower application. We know how to investigate and litigate retaliation cases with the aim of obtaining our clients all relief available under all governing laws.
Ingrid M. Evans can be reached at (415) 441-8669, or by email at <a href=”mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org”>email@example.com</a>. In addition to whistleblower cases under the FCA and CFCA, Ingrid also handles bank fraud whistleblower cases under FIRREA/FIAFEA, commodity trading and securities fraud under the Commodities Futures Trading Commission Whistleblower Program and the Securities and Exchange Commission Whistleblower Program, and tax fraud under the Internal Revenue Service Whistleblower Program.
 The case is United States ex rel. Felten v. William Beaumont Hospital, Case No. 20-1002 (6th Cir. Mar. 31, 2021). Evans Law Firm, Inc. was not involved in the case in any way.