Employees who have knowledge that their employers are engaged in illegal activities such as fraud against the government can file a lawsuit to uncover such fraud. In such cases, employees may be entitled to receive a percentage of the government's recovery. This type of lawsuit is also known as "qui tam" lawsuit. It may also be referred to as a "false claims" action because the federal False Claims Act governs federal qui tam cases.
If you believe you have such a claim against your employer, it is critical that you contact a Qui Tam lawyer in Los Angeles who can provide you with information about your rights and also make sure that your legal rights as an employee are protected as you navigate this complex process.
Qui Tam Action Lawyers
Qui tam whistleblower cases or false claim actions are most commonly seen or heard of in industries that do business with the government. Examples are medical service providers who treat Medicare or Medicaid patients and companies that have contracts with the U.S. military.
Here is an example of a scenario where a qui tam action might be warranted. A nursing home bills Medicare or Medicaid for treatment that was not provided to an elderly resident or bills the government agencies for unnecessary treatment that was provided to a patient just to increase billing.
In such cases, the government can recover money from the nursing home and the employee who blew the whistle or shone light on the illegal activity may receive a percentage of that recovery. In situations where the fraud has been ongoing for a long period of time, employees may receive substantial amounts of money.
False Claims Actions
In the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2020 alone, the U.S. Department of Justice recovered more than $2.2 billion in judgments and settlements from civil cases involving fraud and false claims against the government. Of that $2.2 billion, more than $1.8 billion involved the health care industry including drug and medical device manufacturers, managed care providers, hospitals, pharmacies, hospice organizations, laboratories and physicians.
The amounts included in that $1.8 billion reflect only federal losses, and in many of these cases, the Department of Justice helped recover additional tens of millions of dollars for state Medicaid programs, according to a news release. It is also significant to note that in the fiscal year 2020, the government paid out $309 million to the individuals or whistleblowers who exposed fraud and false claims by filing these actions.
Who is a Whistleblower?
A whistleblower is an individual who reports fraud, waste, abuse, corruption or dangers to public health and safety to an entity that is in a position to correct these wrongs. A whistleblower typically works inside the organization where the wrongdoing is occurring. However, being an insider is not essential to serving as a whistleblower. What is important is that the individual discloses information about the illegal activity or wrongdoing that would otherwise remain in the dark.
What is the False Claims Act?
The False Claims Act or FCA is the nation's first whistleblower law originally signed into law in 1863 by President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War. The FCA at the time was passed to target fraud by contractors providing substandard goods and services to the troops. The False Claims Act has seen several revisions and has become increasingly powerful. However, one aspect has still remained since the law was passed: the qui tam or whistleblower provision.
This important provision allows any individual or non-governmental entity to file a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of the U.S. government. Under this provision, whistleblowers can be rewarded for confidentially disclosing fraud that results in a financial loss to the government. If the whistleblower's original information results in a successful prosecution, whistleblowers are awarded 15% to 30% of the collected proceeds, which can be substantial.
What is the California False Claims Act?
The California False Claims Act permits the state Attorney General to bring a civil law enforcement action to recover treble (three times) damages and civil penalties against any person or entity that knowingly makes a false statement or document to obtain money or property from the state, or attempts to avoid paying money to the state. The False Claims Unit of the Corporate Fraud Section looks into alleged violations of this law based on referrals from state, federal and local agencies, tips from the public and qui tam complaints, also known as whistleblower complaints.
The California False Claims Act's qui tam provision allows a whistleblower to file an action to enforce the law, and these actions have resulted in some of the most significant monetary recoveries under the Act. Not only is the whistleblower eligible to receive a share of the recovery, but the Act also provides them with protection against retaliation.
The California False Claims Act is a complex law and those who are interested in bringing a qui tam action would be well advised to consult an experienced qui tam lawyer in Los Angeles who can help guide them through the process.
Damages and Rewards in Qui Tam Actions
As with federal false claim actions, California's False Claims Act also states that a person or entity who violates the Act is liable for three times the amount of damages sustained by the government. In addition, the California law penalizes each instance of misconduct up to $10,000 and permits individual whistleblowers and their attorneys to file qui tam lawsuits. Whistleblower rewards in California can be up to 50% of the amount recovered by the government. Because of these significant penalties and fines under the California False Claims Act, the rewards to whistleblowers can be substantial.
Are Whistleblowers Protected Against Retaliation?
It takes a lot of courage to blow the whistle against your employer. Whistleblowers could very well lose their jobs or be discriminated against because they took a stand. However, the False Claims Act contains provisions that protect whistleblowers who file qui tam lawsuits from being fired, demoted, suspended, threatened, harassed or discriminated against. An employee or contractor is shielded from retaliation under the law after reporting FCA allegations.
If a whistleblower is retaliated against, the False Claims Act states that he or she is entitled to damages including twice the back pay with interest as well as attorney's fees and court costs. An experienced Los Angeles qui tam attorney can help protect employees and safeguard their rights in the workplace.
Los Angles Qui Tam Lawyers
At Kingsley and Kingsley Lawyers, our Los Angeles employment attorneys recognize the courage and conviction it takes for whistleblowers to come forward to do the right thing. We will work diligently to make sure you received the compensation for which you are entitled. Call us at (818) 408-6708 for a free and comprehensive consultation.