Coming forward and revealing that their employer is breaking the law is not something that is easy for people to do. One of their fears is that they will be fired, demoted or suffer some other kind of retaliation. Thankfully, there are federal laws in place to protect whistleblowers from the actions of the companies they work for.
One of the most difficult situations an employee can face is that of finding out that an employer in Washington, D.C., is engaging in illegal or unethical conduct. While it may be tempting to immediately blow the whistle, there are several factors that must be verified first.
"What begins as a survival strategy ends with the compromise of the human being it sought to preserve and the diminishing of the democracy meant to justify the sacrifice."
Retaliation occurs when an employer takes adverse action against an employee who is engaged in activities that are protected under the law. For example, employees who report sexual harassment, discrimination or other illegal activities cannot face discipline, termination, demotion or other adverse actions. Unfortunately, many employers, including federal agencies, illegally retaliate against employees for exercising their rights. These acts can have a devastating impact on a person's career and well-being.
Our client, Leticia Alonso, was formerly employed as a Medical Support Assistant Supervisor in the GI Department at the Minneapolis VA. In or around May 2014, she began reporting that GI consults were not being scheduled in a timely manner. Patients were to be contacted within 7 days and an appointment was to be scheduled within 14 days from the date of referral by a physician. Instead, Ms. Alonso reported consults were severely overdue, one as old as 46 days overdue. She also reported that she was being instructed to cancel patient appointments and enter false comments into the VA system, such as patient declined appointment, or no response from patient, when in fact the patient had never been called about the appointment and that certain more symptomatic patients were being placed on a secret waitlist instead of in the official VA system. Ms. Alonso alleges that as a result of her reports, on June 4, 2014, she received a notice of proposed removal and was subsequently removed from service on July 1, 2014.
Qui tam claims filed under the False Claims Act allow certain employees and other interested parties to file suit against an entity that is defrauding the federal government. When qui tam claims are filed, they are filed on behalf of the federal government, even though the individual who has obtained evidence of fraud is acting practically as plaintiff. These kinds of lawsuits empower both individuals with knowledge of fraud and the government itself to hold fraudulent parties accountable and to recover compensation as a result of a successful suit.
A few weeks ago, an important whistleblower protection proposal was passed by the Senate's Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI). These protections are detailed in the Intelligence Authorization Act for the 2014 fiscal year. This committee passage represents an important development in the area of workers' rights. For while many workers are protected by law when they seek to file whistleblower claims, intelligence workers have not consistently been granted access to this set of legal protections.
Companies that have cut hours, reduced headcount, "realigned", "rightsized", or capped hours worked by their employees, to avoid the requirements of the Affordable Care Act/Oamacare, may be liable for damages under Section 510 of ERISA and/or the whistleblower section of the law.
Recently, the city of New York agreed to pay $70 million to settle allegations that it submitted false claims to the Medicaid program. Documents from a federal court in Manhattan detail that the city admitted that its Human Resources Administration had reauthorized 24-hour personal care services for some Medicaid recipients without obtaining independent medical reviews or authorization required by medical professionals.
A lawsuit brought by two mortgage brokers accuses a number of large banks of defrauding veterans and other taxpayers out of millions of dollars.