Every whistleblower wants to know: What can I get if I win my case? Whistleblower rewards come in many forms, and the amount and type of compensation (also known as damages) can depend on several factors:
- the law that applies to your case
- how your employer retaliated against you
- the evidence you have
The strength of your claim, your evidence, and the damages available to you will affect your legal strategy. There are several components that make up a whistleblower case. It’s important to know about possible damages before even filing yours.
What damages can I recover for whistleblowing?
Under most whistleblower protection laws, the following types of damages may be available, depending on your case:
- Reinstatement: If a court finds that your employer fired you in retaliation for whistleblowing, you may get your job back.
- Lost pay: You may be able to recover wages you lost because of the retaliation. A court may award lost pay (also known as backpay) if you were fired, put on unpaid leave or suspension, or if you otherwise lost pay.
- Lost benefits: You may also seek lost employment benefits, such as retirement contributions you would have received if you hadn’t been fired.
- Compensatory damages: Some whistleblower retaliation laws provide compensatory damages for pain and suffering. A court may award money to compensate you for physical or emotional pain and suffering, distress, and humiliation.
- Attorney’s fees and costs: You may also seek reimbursement for attorney’s fees and litigation costs.
Other types of damages may be available, depending on your claim. For example, the False Claims Act allows an individual to file a claim on behalf of the federal government in a special case called a qui tam action. If you win, you are entitled to recover a percentage of the government’s damages.
What do I have to prove?
You only get damages if you prove your claim of whistleblower retaliation. Once you get over that significant hurdle, you still must prove the specific damages, the amount or value of those damages, and that retaliation (instead of something else) caused the damages.
- Lost pay: First, you have to prove you lost pay. In most cases, employers will admit they fired, suspended, or demoted you. The next step is proving the amount of lost pay. Evidence of lost pay may include pay stubs and tax returns. If you were fired, you’ll also need to show the amount of unemployment benefits you received, as well as any income you received from new employment. Finally, you must prove that you mitigated your damages. In other words, you must show that you really tried to find a new job. If you didn’t actively apply for new jobs, or if you don’t have evidence to show it, you may not get your full amount of lost pay.
- Lost benefits: You must present evidence of the type and amount of the lost benefits. For example, statements of the employer’s contributions to your retirement account may establish the amount of lost retirement benefits. Medical bills and insurance premium invoices may prove additional costs you incurred after you lost your employer-provided insurance coverage.
- Compensatory damages: Evidence of compensatory damages is trickier. Compensatory damages are awarded to compensate a plaintiff for pain and suffering that doesn’t have a specific monetary value. Pain and suffering may have physical symptoms – like headaches, difficulty sleeping, and weight loss/gain. It can also have mental and emotional symptoms – such as depression and anxiety. However, if you seek compensatory damages for physical or emotional symptoms, you may have to produce your medical records. You can also use witness testimony to prove your damages. At a trial or hearing, friends, family members, medical providers, and other witnesses can testify about their observations of your pain and suffering.
How do I seek whistleblower retaliation damages?
The best first step may be to consult an attorney. An experienced whistleblower retaliation attorney can assess whether you have a case, determine what damages may be available, and explain how to take legal action. The strength of your claim, your evidence, and the damages available to you will affect your legal strategy.
Why should I hire Alan Lescht and Associates?
If you complained about waste, fraud, or abuse by the government, we can help. Our attorneys will evaluate your case, discuss your options, and develop a strategy to assert your rights. We are whistleblower attorneys who represent clients in connection with whistleblower retaliation and False Claims Act cases. Send us an email or call us at (202) 463-6036 to speak with an experienced employment attorney. Alan Lescht and Associates offers legal services to private sector and state and local government clients in Washington, DC, Maryland, and northern Virginia, and to federal employees around the world.