Employees Signing A Severance Agreement Should Exercise Caution Because You Could Be Waiving Or Releasing Your Right To Bring A False Claim/Whistleblower Or Qui Tam Lawsuit
If you are terminated and your employer asks you to sign a severance agreement, what exactly are you giving up? Severance agreements typically contain broad releases, in which you waive your rights to bring a claim or lawsuit against your employer. Exactly what this can mean may surprise you.
If you know that your employer defrauded the government—i.e. deliberately deceiving the government, which causes it to spend money it shouldn’t have—federal law allows you to bring suit against your employer on behalf of the government in what is called a qui tam action. The law, known as the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. § 3729 et seq., allows the government to recover money it was tricked into spending, and it is designed to encourage people to come forward by allowing them to keep a portion of any money recovered in the case. The incentive is significant; according to the Taxpayers Against Fraud Education Fund, over $21 billion was recovered between 1987 and 2008, and of that, over $2 billion went to those who blew the whistle.
But can signing a release with your employer prevent you from blowing the whistle on your employer for defrauding the government? The answer, unfortunately, is yes. If you waive your right to bring suit against your employer, you may be unable to bring claims to remedy wrongs done to others as well. This means that by signing a release, you may be giving up your right to stop your employer from defrauding the government in a qui tam action. As you can see, there are serious consequences to signing a severance agreement and waiving your rights. Consult with a lawyer before signing a release to help avoid situations like this. If you would like to consult with a false claim, whistleblower or qui tam lawyer at Evans Law Firm, Inc., please contact us at 415-441-8669 or toll free at 888-503-8267.