Imagine you are a nurse at a local hospital. Recently, you’ve noticed several doctors ordering unnecessary tests for patients – think MRI or CT scan. You mention it to your supervisor, but nothing is happening. You know it is illegal, but what can you do?
You might be able to file a qui tam lawsuit under the False Claims Act. However, before filing anything in court, you need to understand the basics of the act and its effects on whistleblowers.
Basics of the False Claims Act
The False Claims Act is one of the strongest protection provisions for whistleblowers in the country. However, it is complex due to the requirements embedded in the act. It can harm any person who submits a claim without counsel.
The act allows individuals or groups with evidence of fraud against federal programs or contracts to sue the program on behalf of the United States government. The government has the right to join the action or decline the suit. The plaintiff then can proceed on their own.
To prosecute a contractor or federal program, you need evidence of deliberate ignorance or knowledge of their actions. Violations of the False Claims Act include:
- Knowingly presenting to the federal government a false or fraudulent claim for payment
- Knowingly using a false record or statements to get a claim paid by the government
- Conspiring with others to get a false claim paid by the government
- Using false records or statements to conceal or avoid an obligation to pay money to the federal government
Protection for whistleblowers
Employees and private citizens have specific protections against retaliation from the contractor or governmental program. If an employee is discharged, demoted, harassed or discriminated against because of whistleblowing, they may be entitled to relief or compensation.
However, some states have employment laws that provide other remedies for retaliation, so research your state’s exact protocol for qui tam lawsuits and whistleblower retaliation.
Awards offered under the False Claims Act
The act includes financial incentives to promote people or employees to come forward and “blow the whistle” on companies deceiving the government. It is especially useful for the government because it cannot detect all the fraudulent claims on its own.
That act states that if the suit is successful, the whistleblower can receive between 15 to 25 percent of the amount recovered. It can be a significant financial gain depending on the significance of the false claims.
Although, the key word is “successful.” Whistleblowers need proper evidence of the false claims, and they will want other employees or individuals to support them during the lawsuit. It will only make the case stronger in the eyes of the court.