Whistleblowers and Qui Tam
Under both the federal and New York State False Claims Acts, an employee may be able to employ a whistleblower lawyer file a lawsuit against an employer to protect the government’s interest when the employee believes the employer has committed a serious crime or defrauded the government by:
- submitting false or inflated invoices to the government;
- violating the law in performing a contract with the government; or
- violating a government regulation when there is a penalty for violating the regulation.
This type of lawsuit is called qui tam. When a whistleblower lawyer files a qui tam action, it is on the employee’s behalf as well as on behalf of the government. The government (federal or state) may eventually become an active party to the lawsuit. If the qui tam case is successful, the employee bringing the suit will be entitled to a percentage of the penalty assessed as a reward for helping the government recover.
Employees who file qui tam action are whistleblowers protected from retaliation by the provisions of the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989. A qui tam action is not available in situations where the fraud or violation is already public knowledge—that means you cannot report the violation to the government and maintain a qui tam action.
How do I know if I have a qui tam action?
The most common qui tam cases involve the health care industry (Medicare/Medicaid fraud) and defense industries (fraudulent pricing/overbilling), and more recently in the environmental protection area, but cases can arise in any area where there is a government procurement or services contract or regulation that has a penalty for its violation:
- You work for a company that has contracted with the government to clean a toxic waste site; the company certifies to the government the work has been done, but you know it has not been done according to the contract, and the contract contains a substantial penalty for failing to clean the site properly.
- You work in a medical office that bills Medicare for tests that were never actually performed; by using codes for more expensive tests than were performed; or for intentionally performing unnecessary tests.
- You work for a defense contractor and you know your employer is intentionally supplying parts it knows are likely to fail when used as intended.
- You work for a mortgage company that provides false information on borrowers’ credit worthiness to procure Federal Housing Authority loans.
I think I have a qui tam claim:
- Act quickly–you have a limited time to file a complaint.
- Gather any documents relevant to your claim.
- Consult an experienced employment layer.
Changes may occur in this area of law. The information provided is brought to you as a public service with the help and assistance of volunteer legal editors, and is intended to help you better understand the law in general. It is not intended to be legal advice regarding your particular problem or to substitute for the advice of a lawyer.