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Whistleblowers and Labor Day

I was just asked the following timely question.

How does the False Claims Act relate to Labor Day?

Well the False Claims Act, roughly speaking, can be thought of as a right that belongs to all of us. Just like the right to a good job and being treated well in the work place is celebrated on Labor Day, it is important to remember these rights are not a given.

Indeed, whistleblowers are always under attack but usually they come from the ranks of labor. (Not always, sometimes executives blow the whistle on firms as well.)

Still, the right to speak out, to use the First Amendment, and to have legal protections on the job; these rights are related. Without whistleblowers complaining about the unfair conditions on the job, to be sure there would be very little in the way of employment-related rights.

We should not take such rights for granted.

In addition, to get highly technical for a minute, there have been cases filed under the False Claims Act related to employee rights.  When contractors agree to work for the United States government they can be bound to wage rates and other employment considerations as a condition of the contract. If they are found to have certified compliance with laws like this, or the award of the contract was based on maintaining such employment conditions and the contractor does not, that can be the subject of a False Claims Act case.

The government can impose a fairer work place for the majority of citizens simply by using the power of its own contracting.  It has a huge amount of money to spend and the government can condition the spending on fair wages for workers and workers rights. Then, as in so many other spheres of government contracting the False Claims Act can be used to be sure these rights are enforced when contractors knowingly violate them.

Labor Day is as good a day as any to remember that whistleblower rewards, qui tam rights and, for that matter, the First Amendment, are all rights that we share, that are precious, and that should be defended.  These rights make it possible for individuals to assert their rights. The False Claims Act is just a specialized, narrow right we enjoy to help the government recover when it is defrauded.