When Citing a Wrongdoing, You Should Protect Yourself with a California Whistleblower Attorney
There are several laws in place at both the state and federal levels that offer protection for people who report suspicious or illegal activity being conducted by their employers or within the workplace. However, when you report another individual, especially one who may have control over your present and future employment opportunities, you face a widespread range of potential reactions, not all of which are positive and not all of which can be adequately protected by the strength of “what the law says.” Whistleblowers often fight uphill battles to keep themselves safe from employer retaliation, all the while doing the right thing. Because of the legal struggle involved in any whistleblower case, it is critical for a whistleblower to have the best possible representation from their California whistleblower attorney when the case goes to trial.
What Is A Whistleblower Under California Law?
A whistleblower is typically an employee who has noticed some kind of illegal activity or fraudulent business practice going on at work, and decides to put a stop to it—by reporting the discovery to a supervisor or higher-up within the corporation, or by going directly to a government agency or law enforcement official responsible for regulating the specific type of business. This behavior could range from violating corporate policy and procedural requirements to illegal transactions or behavior, or to a threat against public safety, interest, or health, including fraud and safety violations.
The protection of whistleblowers dates back to the 1700s, and legislation has been in place since the Civil War era. In present day, California and several other states follow the revised False Claims Act, which protects employees from harm after they turn in their employers, and encourages whistleblowers to continue reporting illegal acts by rewarding them a percentage of the money recovered or the damages won in court.
Federal Whistleblower Laws
Some of the most common federal whistleblower laws (and the employees to whom they offer protection) are:
- False Claims Act: Employees of government contractors
- Sarbanes-Oxley Act: Employees of publicly traded companies
- Dodd-Frank Act: Employees in the financial services sector
- Whistleblower Protection Act: Employees of the federal government
- Occupational Safety and Health Act: Employees who report violations of the workplace health and safety provisions of the OSH Act
- Fair Labor Standards Act: Employees who report violations of the minimum wage provisions of the FLSA
- Family and Medical Leave Act: Employees who report violations of the FMLA
- Clean Air Act: Employees who report illegal air pollution under the Clean Air Act
- Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act: Employees who report schemes to defraud financial institutions or fraud committed by those financial institutions
- Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act: Employees who report violations of the provisions of the MSPA, which generally concern wages, housing, and transportation of migrant and seasonal agricultural workers
- Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act: Employees who report violations of the environmental provisions of the SMCRA, which protect the environment from the adverse effects of coal mining
- IRS Whistleblower Program: Individuals who report on persons who fail to pay the taxes they owe to the IRS
California Whistleblower Laws
Californians are also protected by state-level whistleblower laws. Some of the most common California whistleblower laws include:
- Labor Code § 1102.5: Generally prohibits retaliation against any employee who discloses a violation of state or federal law to a federal or state government or law enforcement agency
- Labor Code § 6310: Prohibits retaliation against an employee who reports occupational safety and health violations
- Labor Code § 98.6: Prohibits retaliation against any employee who reports violations of the state’s wage and hour standards and other wrongful conduct
- California Whistleblower Protection Act, Cal. Gov’t Code §:8547-8547.12: Prohibits retaliation against employees of the state government for reporting waste, fraud, abuses of authority, violations of law, or threats to public health
If your situation does not fit neatly into any of the above types of whistleblower actions, you may still be protected. Contact a California whistleblower attorney for information concerning more complex or less common whistleblower claims.
Types of Whistleblower Cases
Whistleblowers are entitled to awards or monetary compensation in certain cases, if their claims are successful. At the Evans Law Firm, you will find an experienced California whistleblower lawyer who can handle all different types of whistleblower cases including:
- Banking Whistleblowers (Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act of 1989 (FIRREA) and the Financial Institutions Anti-Fraud Enforcement Act of 1990 (FIAFEA))
- IRS – Internal Revenue Service Tax Whistleblowers;
- Insurance Fraud Whisteblowers (California Insurance Code 1871.7);
- SEC – Securities Exchange Commission Whistleblowers/ Dodd-Frank Whistleblowers (Wallstreet Reform and Consumer Protection Act);
- False, Fraudulent and Qui Tam Claim Whistleblowers (federal and California false claims laws) – False Claim Act § 3729 et seq or California False Claim Act(Government Code 12650);
- Medicare Fraud Whistleblowers;
- Medi-cal (California) Fraud Whistleblowers;
- Sarbanes-Oxley Act Whistleblowers;
- SEC – Securities Exchange Commission Whistleblowers/ Dodd-Frank Whistleblowers (Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act);
- Whistleblower Retaliation under California Labor Code1102.5 and Violation of Public Policy and for Illegal Conduct
What Is A False Claim Or Qui Tam Case?
A false claim is a claim that is fraudulent that is submitted to the government. A case can be brought for a false claim on behalf of the federal or a state government that had fraud committed upon them. These cases are brought to recover taxpayer money that was taken fraudulently. Sometimes these type of cases are called “whistleblower” cases because they are brought by a whistleblower who is acting on behalf of the local, state or federal government. You may also hear the term “qui tam” – which is a latin phrase that is roughly translated to mean that person or entitly who pursues this action on the governments’ behalf (translated correctly as the Lord King’s behalf), as well as his own.
The qui tam plaintiff or whistleblower is called a relator under federal or state law. The plaintiff or relator is considered to be bringing the lawsuit for the government. 31 U.S.C. § 3730(b): “A person may bring a civil action for a violation of section 3729 for the person and for the United States Government. The action shall be brought in the name of the Government.”
What Does a California Whistleblower Attorney Do?
An attorney representing a whistleblower will engage in many of the same types of activities as attorneys in other kinds of employment disputes. Some of the most common services whistleblowers’ attorneys provide include:
- Investigating the veracity of your claims to determine whether your employer’s actions rise to the level of prohibited conduct by the relevant whistleblower law
- Filing complaints with the relevant government agencies to present your claims
- Ensuring that you follow all appropriate steps in order to maximize your potential reward
- Representing your interests before the relevant government agency that is investigating your claims
- If your employer has retaliated against you, attempting to resolve your claim by negotiating a settlement on your behalf
- If no settlement can be reached, filing a lawsuit on your behalf against your employer
Choose Your California Whistleblower Attorney Carefully
The following list explains a few key things to consider in choosing an attorney:
- Whistleblower specialty and success rates. You definitely want your lawyer to have handled such cases previously, and he or she should be familiar with the courtroom and the legal landscape of your case. That said, you want to choose a firm that has a high success rate in whistleblower cases. If you can get firsthand testimony from an online review or someone else who has used the firm’s services, that’s even better. Be wary of some firms whose online presence may over exaggerate their true value. Do not hesitate to ask for concrete examples of a firm or attorney’s success before making your decision.
- Tax fraud expertise. Do some online research once you’ve narrowed down your choices to see if your top firms have any expertise with tax fraud in particular. If the IRS and Congress have been in contact with the lawyers at a particular firm, that’s usually a good sign that they are well-respected in the field. Another good clue is if they have been questioned or quoted by newspapers and media outlets as sources.
- Tax code knowledge. See if the firm employs the help of tax experts and find out who they use. Make sure your firm has a relationship with experts who deal specifically in the areas your case will cover.
- Familiarity with the IRS. It would be quite helpful if your attorney is familiar with the IRS and its policies and procedures. You will be spending a lot of time trying to push your case in front of the IRS whistleblower office, as they receive thousands of reports of fraud each year. Your attorney should be able to help you make your case a priority.
At the Evans Law Firm, we represent anyone who is reporting tax fraud or illegal tax activity to the IRS. For more information, contact the California whistleblower attorneys at our firm today at 415-441-8669 or online at www.evanslaw.com.