A qui tam lawsuit is the legal term for what the average person would call a whistleblower suit. Whistleblowers essentially file a lawsuit on behalf of the government against a company that has allegedly wasted taxpayer dollars. If a person has knowledge of business practices that have defrauded the government, they can “blow the whistle” and give the government enough information to prosecute. However, whistleblowers are sometimes subjected to retaliation and general ill-treatment if their involvement in such cases becomes public. If you are in this situation, contacting an experienced employment attorney is crucial.
Fighting Fraud Helps Everyone
A private citizen can file a claim under the U.S. False Claims Act (or a state False Claims Act, though as of this writing South Carolina does not have one) when any waste of taxpayer money is suspected. The majority of qui tam lawsuits involve fraud, with the most common types being Medicare/Medicaid fraud and overbilling the government, or billing the government for work that was never performed. As long as you have personal knowledge and actual evidence of unethical practices, your claim can be filed.
One might ask why an employee would put their career at risk to inform on their employer. While some might simply do it out of a sense of justice, the major motivator for most whistleblowers is financial. If your knowledge leads to a finding of liability against the alleged fraudulent company, you will be entitled to recover between 15 and 30 percent of the proceeds of the suit (depending on whether the government intervenes, and how much your information was of help to prosecutors).
Don’t Do It Alone
More than in many other types of cases, it’s crucial to have a qui tam attorney to help you with your case. In theory, any individual can mount a qui tam suit. However, in practice, it’s all but impossible for the average person to prepare a case that the U.S. Justice Department will accept. The DOJ receives an average of 650 qui tam filings per year and can only join a handful of those cases with the staff and resources that it has. Thus, it will only join the cases that are the best prepared and laid out, with the highest chance of success.
Whether or not your case is successful, however, your employer may try to retaliate against you for having the perceived hubris to inform on them. If you experience negative employment action and you can link it to your qui tam lawsuit, you may be entitled to compensation, including double back pay. Both state and federal law protect employees against retaliation for engaging in protected activity, and participating in a qui tam suit is emphatically protected activity.
Contact A South Carolina Employment Discrimination Attorney
Choosing to serve as a whistleblower can be a difficult path, but it helps to know that your rights are protected. If your employer tries to retaliate against you for exercising your rights, you have options. Attorney A. Christopher Potts and the firm of Hitchcock & Potts have been handling retaliation cases for many years, and we can put our experience to work for you. Contact our firm today to schedule a consultation.