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Whistleblowers are people who have the courage to step forward and report serious wrongdoing. By extension, whistleblower laws are essentially a collection of statutes and regulations that provide these people with rights and sometimes even rewards.
When deciding whether or not to blow the whistle, it is most important to know your rights. You may be entitled to rewards, you may be able to sue for retaliation. No matter what, you should always get professional legal counsel before you act to blow the whistle. If, however, you have already blown the whistle, you should still seek counsel immediately.
The easiest way to learn how these laws work and to navigate them is to contact an experienced DC whistleblower lawyer with any information you may have about your case. Most attorneys in this field work on a contingency fee basis, so such an initial contact is not likely to be costly.
Fear is the enemy of every whistleblower. That fear is, unfortunately, not unfounded. Those who would defraud the government may also try to retaliate against honest individuals. While all threats against whistleblowers cannot be eliminated, the law does provide recourse. The current version of the federal law, and virtually every state FCA law, also provides rights for individuals who face retaliation for fighting fraud. Most state anti-retaliation provisions are modeled on the federal law, which gives them the right to file a claim if they are reporting or fighting fraud that was committed by another individual or entity against the government. They can obtain two times back pay, special damages and attorneys fees under this provision and they can file such a case as part of a consolidated action to sue for fraud committed against the government.
Prior to filing a case, the whistleblower generally should notify the government of their allegations as part of the effort to establish their status as an “original source.” The case is then filed in court under seal, which means that their actions and identity will not be made public for an initial period of time. The whistleblower then formally serves the government with the complaint and all the supporting evidence.
If, for example, a person has information about a national fraud scheme, they may be able to file a consolidated claim including federal and state law claims. This involves serving the case on appropriate agencies of the affected state(s) and the federal government. The consolidated action is filed in federal court and will cover both the state and federal claims, which can be handled as noted under authority of the Federal False Claims Act 31 US Code Section 3732. Of course, any person looking to blow the whistle should work with a skilled and knowledgeable whistleblower attorney in DC to be sure he or she follows all the appropriate procedure.
The role of an attorney is to work with the client and figure out both, which laws are applicable, and to help present the strongest case possible. When suing under the Federal False Claims Act, a whistleblower lawyer in Washington, D.C. may be necessary simply because many jurisdictions require a lawyer when an individual sues on behalf of the government.
In addition, of course, these are complicated cases. An attorney familiar with qui tam law and procedure can help determine which claims make the most sense and, which claims are worth pursuing under the law. The more the attorney can help the client present a stronger case, the better. The idea is to help present something to the government’s attorneys and help them see how the case can be successful.
No matter which course of action the whistleblower wishes to take, the laws and the facts of the case are usually complex. The procedures and the complicated cases usually mean an individual will require the help of a whistleblower attorney. who is knowledgeable about this specific area of the law, including qui tam and the FCA.
The urge to identify and stop those who take advantage of the government, and others, is natural. Acting on that urge, however, requires one to muster serious courage in the face of threats of retaliations and other risks associated with being a whistleblower. Individuals and organization who are most likely to be affected by someone coming forward are also likely to have powerful influences and serious resources at their disposal to help block any efforts to shed light on their nefarious practices.
That, in turn, can put the potential whistleblower in a vulnerable position. Most may initially act t against these powerful entities, often their own employer, on their own. This is why people looking to report fraud need and are granted certain rights under the federal False Claims Act and its qui tam provisions, as well as similar whistleblower laws. It is also why obtaining counsel to learn what those rights are is a crucial step.
Determining who legally qualify as whistleblowers and what rights they may have, can be quite complicated. If you are considering blowing the whistle, you should strongly consider contacting a DC whistleblower lawyer as soon as possible to ensure that your rights are protected.