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Both federal and state laws protect employees who report illegal activity, fraudulent behavior, and other labor violations that occur in the workplace. These people are called whistleblowers, and their honesty in coming forward and exposing employment law violations can sometimes result in employer retaliation and other forms of harassment. That is why our esteemed, award-wining legal team is committed to using our skills and resources to advocate for the rights of whistleblowers across California.
Have you witnessed wrongdoing at work that you reported to your employer, but they failed to do anything to fix it? Do you want to report illegal activity in your workplace but you're afraid your employer will fire or punish you? If so, turn to Kingsley and Kingsley Employment Lawyers for reliable legal counsel. We are here to listen to your concerns and help explore all of your options so you can fight for justice and hold your employer accountable under the law.
Call (818) 990-8300 today for a free case review.
Which Types of Whistleblower Actions Are Protected By Law?
Under the False Claims Act, whistleblowers are legally protected from punishment or retaliation by their company. The state of California also has a version of the False Claims Act for those who engage in conduct that is protected by public policy.
Examples of protected whistleblower activity include:
- Reporting fraudulent, unethical, or dangerous actions or behavior observed in the workplace
- Filing a complaint for wage or hour violations
- Filing a worker's compensation claim
- Reporting a coworker's illegal activities or misconduct
- Reporting unlawful discrimination or harassment
- Reporting health or safety code violations
- Reporting fraudulent health care or medical claim practices
- Reporting overcharges or fraudulent billing for items/services or time spent with clients
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I had a truly wonderful, life-changing experience with Kimberly, Taylor, and the team at Kingsley Employment Lawyers, who handled my employment law case. I had a lot of questions, and I always had them answered. I recommend the Kingsley team to anyone who needs a truly great lawyer in Encino, Los Angeles, or wherever. Thanks again!
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What is the Average Settlement for Whistleblower Retaliation?
Individuals who report employers that violate laws and regulations could face retaliation. This type of whistleblower retaliation could take a number of different forms and could have an impact on current and former employees who blew the whistle on discrimination or abuse. Employees who report such information are often subject to retaliation. However, there are laws that shield employees who come forward to report illicit activity or wrongdoing.
Whistleblower claims and whistleblower retaliation claims are two distinct actions. However, blowing the whistle is an act that is protected under state and federal laws, as is any adverse action or retaliatory behavior perpetrated by the employer.
The amount of a settlement for whistleblower retaliation could vary significantly depending on the nature of the case. There are a number of factors that could affect the settlement in a whistleblower retaliation case. The more egregious the retaliation, the more the value of the settlement in such cases is likely to be. An experienced Los Angeles whistleblower retaliation lawyer can help you better understand the value of your case.
What is a Whistleblower Lawsuit?
When an employee comes forward and files a whistleblower lawsuit with private information about a company's unlawful activity against the government, they are known as a whistleblower. Whistleblowers who provide information about the illicit activity that financially harms the government receive financial incentives for their courage and protected by the law against potential retaliation by their employers.
A whistleblower lawsuit or a "qui tam lawsuit" is a suit filed by a private citizen on behalf of a government entity against someone who tried to get government money by fraudulent means. Under California's False Claims Act, employees may file whistleblower lawsuits against their employers. These types of lawsuits are commonly seen filed against employers that do work under government contracts.
Is Whistleblower Retaliation a Crime?
There are state and federal laws including the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, which protect whistleblowers from retaliation by their employers. When an employer retaliates against a whistleblower who lodges a complaint about fraudulent or illegal activities in the workplace, they could be sued for whistleblower retaliation. In addition, depending on the circumstances, employers could also face criminal prosecution for retaliating against the employee who blew the whistle.
Can Whistleblower Claims Be Released?
Many whistleblowers face the dilemma of whether to sign a release that waives the right to a whistleblower reward or forfeit a severance payment. Employers regularly require a release as a condition for employees to receive severance pay. Awards from whistleblower cases are significantly higher than severance payments. They are about 15 to 30% of the government's recovery. But potential whistleblowers end up signing the release because they may not want to pass up on severance pay.
Release of whistleblower or qui tam claims are largely unenforceable as a matter of public policy because courts have found there can be harm done to public policy interests by releasing qui tam claims. The goal of whistleblower laws is to prevent and correct fraud against the government by providing financial incentives to private individuals to help uncover and prosecute whistleblower claims.
Whistleblower lawsuits essentially alert the government to potential fraud. Even for whistleblowers who have already signed a release, case precedents show that employers who have committed fraud against the government may not be able to enforce the agreement even if jurisdictions that might otherwise permit the release of these claims.
If you have not signed a release, it is better to be cautious. Never sign a release until you have sought advice from an experienced employment attorney who is well-versed in whistleblower laws and protections. There is still much uncertainty on whether or not a release will be upheld. Signing a release is definitely not a decision that should be made lightly or without sound legal advice.
How Much Money Do Whistleblowers Get?
Individuals who blow the whistle on illicit activity on the part of their employers are awarded a whistleblower reward that is a percentage of the amount recovered by the government. The process for getting a reward and the amount of the reward will depend on whether the whistleblower cases are qui tam lawsuits or submissions made to whistleblower programs run by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) or the IRS.
In qui tam cases, whistleblowers may receive a reward of 15% to 25% of what the government recovers. This is only if the government joins the whistleblower lawsuit. If that doesn't happen and the whistleblower proceeds against the employer, the whistleblower (known as the relator) is entitled to a reward of 25% to 30% of what is recovered by the government.
The actual reward the whistleblower gets could depend on a number of factors including the nature of the information provided by the relator; the seriousness of the fraud involved; and the amount of help the relator provided on the case. In qui tam cases, the whistleblower's reward is calculated based on the amount the government recovers.
Under the SEC program, a whistleblower may receive a reward of 10% to 30% of what the government recovers, should the SEC recover more than $1 million. The SEC may increase the award depending on the significance of the information the whistleblower provided, the quality of help the whistleblower provided in the investigation, and the value of the case in terms of acting as a deterrent to other violators. Under the CFTC's program, whistleblowers are entitled to a reward of 10% to 30% of what the government recovers, if the CFTC's recovery is over $1 million.
What Makes a Strong Retaliation Case?
When it comes to whistleblower retaliation cases, a crucial element to win these lawsuits hinges on the quality of evidence an employee can gather to prove his or her claims. In many cases, the employer may hold the cards with regard to document access and information related to the key facts in a whistleblower retaliation disputes. There are three central pieces of evidence that can make your whistleblower retaliation case much stronger:
A written internal complaint: In order to have a strong retaliation case, you must show that you engaged in protected activity; that the employer knew you engaged in protected activity; that you suffered an adverse employment action for which the protected activity was a contributing factor. You can show that the employer knew about the complaint or the protected activity if a copy of your written complaint exists. Without that, your employer may claim that the whistleblower's verbal complaint never happened.
Job performance evaluations: If you can establish all elements of whistleblower retaliation, then your employer would need to prove that they would have taken the same adverse action against you even if you had not blown the whistle. If you can produce a recent positive job performance review, that can help show that the company's adverse action was related to your whistleblowing – that it was in fact retaliation.
Memos, texts, emails: These can be powerful pieces of evidence that might show your employer's intent. For example, an email or Slack message could demonstrate that the employer knew about your whistleblowing activities. It is critical to preserve these communications in your personal or home computer so you have access to them at all times.
We Will Handle Your Case with Efficiency & Discretion
Our highly respected employment law firm has a stellar reputation helping workers fight back against employers who abuse whistleblowers. We firmly believe that employers who stomp all over the rights of their workers deserve to be held accountable for their wrongdoing. That is why our legal professionals use our unique insight to help workers across a wide range of industries pursue whistleblower claims for discrimination, wrongful termination, wage and hour violations, and more.
Although businesses and corporations are backed by their own teams of lawyers who exclusively serve them, when you choose Kingsley & Kingsley Lawyers to handle your case, we will leverage our extensive resources and proven strategies to even the playing field. Using an employment attorney is one of the best ways to put yourself on equal ground.
To learn more about your employee rights, please contact our elite employment law team today at (818) 990-8300. We proudly serve clients throughout Los Angeles, so please don't hesitate to get in touch with us for assistance with your whistleblower claim.