Whistleblowers are valuable members of society. They courageously expose fraud, waste, and abuse within public and private organizations. Each year, whistleblowers help the U.S. government recover billions of dollars of ill-gotten gains by individuals and corporations.
Many of us are familiar with the contemporary whistleblowers that were depicted in such films as Erin Brockavich, The Insider, Silkwood, and Serpico. However, whistleblowing is actually one of the oldest traditions in our nation. For instance, the False Claims Act – one of the most powerful laws in our country that protects whistleblowers – was originally enacted in 1863 in an effort to combat fraud by contractors that provided sick horses, faulty weapons, and spoiled food to the Union and Confederate troops.
Whistleblowers take great risks when they expose unethical and/or unlawful misconduct. Many of them suffer retaliation from their supervisors and are ostracized by their peers that label them as “snitches.” Fortunately, the United States has some of the strongest whistleblower protection laws in the world. Whistleblower rewards can also be quite lucrative.
If you have engaged in – or are considering engaging in – protected whistleblowing activities, we urge you to contact an Atlanta whistleblower lawyer. The skilled employment lawyers at Allen & Scofield Injury Lawyers, LLC have successfully represented whistleblowers for many years. We are not intimidated by powerful corporations. We are honored to fight for the rights of whistleblowers.
Who is a Whistleblower?
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a “whistleblower” as “an employee who brings wrongdoing by an employer or other employees to the attention of a government or law enforcement agency and who is commonly vested by statute with rights and remedies for retaliation.”
The “wrongdoing” that whistleblowers expose typically includes violations of company policies and rules, federal and state laws and regulations, fraud, and corruption.
Whistleblowers can make their disclosures internally to supervisors and/or divisions that have the power to correct the misconduct (e.g. corporate compliance department or human resources department). Whistleblowers can also choose to make their disclosures externally by filing a complaint with a federal agency that has investigatory authority, such as the Department of Labor, or by filing a lawsuit.
What are the Laws that Protect Whistleblowers?
In the United States, whistleblower protections are typically defined by federal and state laws, such as:
- The False Claims Act (FCA) of 1863. The FCA is a federal law that imposes liability on persons and companies (e.g. healthcare providers and federal contract recipients) that defraud government programs (e.g., Medicare, Medicaid, and grant programs).
- The Whistleblower Protection Act (“WPA”) of 1989. The WPA is a federal law that protects federal employees that disclose “government illegality, waste, and corruption.”
- The No FEAR Act of 2002. The No FEAR Act is a federal law that prohibits federal managers and supervisors from engaging in unlawful discrimination and retaliation.
- Sarbanes Oxley Act (SOX) of 2002. SOX is a federal law that protects whistleblowers that provide information about certain violations of federal securities laws or various forms of fraud, including fraud against shareholders.
- Georgia Public Employee Whistleblower Statute (O.C.G.A. § 45-1-4). This state statute was implemented to prevent retaliatory action (termination, demotion, suspension, or any other adverse action) against a public employee that makes a complaint or provides information regarding any activity constituting waste, fraud, and abuse
- Georgia Taxpayer Protection False Claims Act (O.C.G.A. § 23-3-122). This state statute is modeled after the Federal False Claims Act. Like the FCA, it protects private individuals who are aware of fraud being perpetrated against the government to bring such information forward.
What are the Rewards for Whistleblowing?
The rewards for whistleblowing vary based upon each federal or state law that respectively defines whistleblowing protection for a particular type of disclosure. For instance, the Federal False Claims Act enables whistleblowers to receive up to 30% of the fines that the government collects – often millions of dollars.
Most whistleblower statues also include provisions that protect whistleblowers from retaliation. Once again, the types of damages that whistleblowers can recover varies depending upon the respective federal or state law. But most laws enable whistleblower retaliation victims to recover the following damages, at a minimum:
- Lost back pay: back pay covers any wages, salary, or benefits that a victim loses as a result of the employer’s retaliatory acts.
- Reinstatement: with same seniority that the victim would have had, but for the retaliation.
- Past pecuniary damages. These are out-of-pocket expenses that you have incurred as a result of the retaliation. Past pecuniary damages include such things as job-hunting expenses, moving expenses, medical expenses, and other quantifiable out-of-pocket expenses.
- Special damages: damages for reputational harm, emotional distress, and other related harms
- Attorneys’ fees and costs can also usually be recovered.
Allen & Scofield Injury Lawyers, LLC Can Help
If you’ve blown the whistle on fraud, waste, abuse, unethical or unlawful misconduct, and your employer is retaliating against you, we urge you to contact Allen & Scofield Injury Lawyers, LLC. Our attorneys have successfully fought for the rights of American workers for over three decades. We will listen to your story, help you find your voice, and recover the compensation that you deserve.