If there is one Act that causes a lot of confusion, it has to be the False Claims Act; a.k.a. Whistleblower legislation.
One might wonder where on Earth a term such as “whistleblower” originated. It actually hails from the practice of English Bobbies who blew their piercing whistles when they saw a crime in progress. Everyone within seemingly two blocks knew something was up when they heard that sound.
Nowadays blowing the whistle on crime isn’t quite as colorful perhaps, but it may be just as effective. Most “whistleblowers” are in the category of internal early warning systems and expose wrongdoings within a company to another employee or someone higher up the management ladder. External “whistleblowers” usually report the suspect activity to whomever they think will best handle the situation – media, a watchdog organization, law enforcement, or a lawyer.
This legislation is geared at federal employees and in order to lay a complaint under the auspices of the False Claims Act, the worker must have reason to believe their employer has violated a law, regulation or rule; or they must testify or initiate a lawsuit on the legally protected matter; or refuse to break the law that they feel their employer is violating.
One interesting and little known twist when dealing with Whistleblower Legislation is that if the information being disclosed is prohibited by law or an executive order, telling anyone this information may be considered to be an act of treason. Suffice it to say, this charge has yet to be laid in Whistleblower cases.
The other thing that usually happens with Whistleblower cases is that if the government does collect from the defendant as the result of a successful fraud case, the person who blew the whistle shares in the proceeds of the settlement. Now you might be wondering who in their right mind would blow the whistle on something and then spend the rest of their life waiting for the retaliation.
Thankfully, when this legislation was drafted, an anti-retaliation provision was added that prohibits harassment or the firing of a “whistleblower.” This particular section will allow the person who revealed information to have an “out” through filing a wrongful dismissal lawsuit, and even seek double back-pay along with any other requested damages.
If you are in a situation where you know something that needs to be revealed because it is wrong – morally, ethically and legally – contact a highly trained lawyer who specializes in this area of the law. That first phone call will be well-worth it in the long run for more than just the possible financial compensation. The satisfaction of having made a difference is an experience in itself.