Sometimes, workers see or hear things that are unethical and unlawful. But speaking out as a whistleblower takes great courage. Fortunately, Texas and federal law often protects those who report illicit acts and behavior.
Dunn Sheehan is ready to help you take the next steps if you need whistleblower protection.Get in Touch
State and Federal Whistleblower Laws
The term “whistleblower” is bandied about much in the media and in conversations. But what exactly is a whistleblower? Generally speaking, a whistleblower is a worker who reports some type of wrongful activity occurring on the job that has a financial impact on the Government.
Whistleblowing can threaten an employee’s livelihood as well as their life. Without protection or some type of incentive, it would rarely be reasonable to expect an employee to blow the whistle on their employer’s unlawful activities.
To that end, laws have been enacted that shield employees from harm and incentivize them to take action when they see evidence of wrongdoing.Get in Touch
Texas Whistleblower Act
The principal state law that protects whistleblowers in Texas is the Texas Whistleblower Act. It describes a whistleblower as a public employee who makes a good-faith report to law enforcement about unlawful activity committed by their employer.
Under its provisions, adverse actions against the employee for their whistleblowing are illegal. Such actions may include:
The law is generally aimed at public employees, although some private employees may be entitled to its protections. Keep in mind that the protections offered by the Texas Whistleblower Act only apply to workers taking action against a state government employer.Get in Touch
False Claims Act
The False Claims Act (FCA) is a federal whistleblower law that empowers private citizens to take action against their employers or other entities on behalf of the federal government. (It’s also called a qui tam lawsuit.)
The employee, known as the relator in these claims, must allege and prove that their employer filed a fraudulent claim of some sort with the federal government to gain a benefit.
Examples of situations where false claims are typically used by employers include:
- Filing a false claim to receive payment
- Using a false statement in a claim for payment
- Making a false statement resulting in the reduction of a debt
Since these unlawful acts are against the federal government, the claim is for the benefit of the federal government and not the employee who takes action. In other words, the employee need not suffer any damage to be authorized to sue.
If an employee does suffer loss, which typically comes from some type of retaliatory effort by the employer, the employee can under certain circumstances bring a suit for damages.
Damages, Penalties, and Incentives
Employers who produce fraudulent claims face significant penalties, including:
- Three times the actual damage incurred by the federal government
- Penalties ranging in the tens of thousands of dollars per false claim
Because most employees would not pursue a lawsuit on behalf of the federal government against their employer without a substantial incentive, the FCA provides a type of bounty for these actions. Relators who successfully recover fraudulently obtained funds in an FCA lawsuit can earn 15% to 30% of the amount recovered.
The percentage amount a relator receives depends on whether the federal government joins them in the lawsuit. If the government does join the employee, then the relator can receive 15% to 25%. If the relator acts alone, their entitled percentage usually ranges from 25% to 30%.
Because FCA lawsuits are highly contentious, it is not unusual to see employers retaliate against whistleblowers. The FCA contemplates these retaliatory actions and grants standing to qualifying employees to file a lawsuit against their employer for damages.
Damages available to a whistleblower under the FCA for retaliatory actions include:
- Job and position reinstatement
- Two times back pay with interest
- Compensation for emotional injury
- Attorneys’ fees and litigation costs
Because these cases are complex, it is important to have a seasoned Dallas, TX, whistleblower attorney representing you. At Dunn Sheehan, we know how to navigate the process in a way that gets results. Call our office today for a free consultation.
Protected Conduct Under the FCA
If you take action against your employer, certain conduct you engage in will be protected. In other words, you must proceed with your case in a specific way to enjoy the benefits and protections of the FCA.
Conduct that is protected by the FCA in certain circumstances includes:
- Refusing to upcode
- Filing a qui tam lawsuit
- Refusing to double bill Medicare or Medicaid
- Protesting the fraudulent inducement of a contract
- Aiding another person who is filing a qui tam lawsuit
- Reporting of failures to maintain good manufacturing practices
- Disclosing the existence of kickbacks for Medicaid service referrals
No form of unlawful conduct qualifies as protected conduct under the FCA.
Proving FCA Liability for Retaliation Claims
The FCA provides that a plaintiff must demonstrate the whistleblower engaged in conduct that was protected, the employer took adverse action against the whistleblower, and that the adverse action was taken because of the whistleblower’s protected conduct.Get in Touch
Texas Medicaid Fraud Prevention Act
The Texas Medicaid Fraud and Prevention Act (TMFPA) contemplates fraudulent actions related to Medicaid. It contains essentially the same provisions found in the FCA but is limited in scope to Medicaid fraud, plus a few additional provisions, such as fines for unlawful acts that harm the elderly.Get in Touch
Important Timing Considerations Relating to Whistleblower Claims
When it comes to whistleblower claims, time is of the essence. Both federal and state statutes of limitations exist that require whistleblowers to file their claims within a specific time period after the occurrence of the unlawful actions.
In all cases, it is important to realize that quick legal action is essential to a strong whistleblower case. The longer an employee waits to speak with a Dallas whistleblower attorney and build a case, the more difficult it becomes to gather evidence and locate witnesses.
If you would like to hold your employer accountable for fraud or for retaliation after you engaged in protected conduct, an attorney for whistleblowers is ready to meet with you and explore your options. Call our office today.Get in Touch
Can I Afford a Dallas Attorney for Whistleblowers?
Most likely, yes. Attorneys for whistleblowers typically operate under contingency fee agreements. Their fees are charged when their clients get compensated for their losses. The whistleblower attorney fee will be a percentage of said compensation.
Who Can File a Qui Tam Lawsuit Under the FCA?
FCA protection can extend to industry insiders with knowledge of a company’s activities, such as:
- Past and present employees
- Contractors and vendors
How Long Will My Whistleblower Lawyer Take to Resolve My Case?
Whistleblower cases can take a while. They are complex and routinely met with vigorous defense by accused employers. When millions of dollars are involved, which is often the case, the case's complexity intensifies, and the time to resolution lengthens.Get in Touch