The term “whistleblower” is defined as a person who reports illegal activity, fraud against the government, or other wrongdoing within a company, state agency, or organization. A federal law, called the False Claims Act, allows employees and other whistleblowers to bring a qui tam suit in the name of all taxpayers against companies who have overbilled or defrauded the federal government.
A state-level law, called the California False Claims Act, also encourages state employees and other whistleblowers to combat fraud and illegal activity by bringing claims against companies engaged in wrongdoing. If the whistleblower’s accusations are found to have merit by the government, and the company is subsequently charged, the whistleblower will receive statutory rewards for their courage in combating fraud against the government.
At Bellatrix PC, our experienced business lawyers are committed to defending entities accused of engaging in fraud, overbilling, and other wrongful financial and legal acts. Our legal team balances aggressive client advocacy with strict compliance with all pertinent state and federal laws, and is dedicated to assisting businesses of all structures and sizes. We will walk you through the nuances of the allegations against your entity, devise comprehensive defense strategies, and help your business explore its legal options for resolving the situation as rapidly, efficiently, and cost-effectively as possible.
To start discussing your goals in a completely confidential legal consultation, call Bellatrix PC today at (800) 449-8992.
Whistleblower Confidentiality Under California Law
The plaintiffs in whistleblower lawsuits, or qui tam lawsuits, are often referred to as “relators.” The California Whistleblower Protection Act, which protects the identity of relators, also authorizes the California State Auditor to accept complaints from both California employees and members of the general public who wish to confidentially report unlawful and unethical conduct.
Like the identity of the original relator, the confidentiality of these supplemental complaints is closely guarded. With a few special exceptions for law enforcement agencies conducting criminal investigations, complainants’ identities may not be revealed unless the complainant him- or herself grants permission for disclosure.
What Does the False Claims Act Prohibit?
The False Claims Act prohibits numerous types of fraudulent conduct, with some of the more common examples of prohibited acts including but not limited to:
- A small business supplying false “minority-owned” certification, with the intention of securing additional government contracts, when the purportedly “minority-owned” business is in fact neither owned nor operated by a minority.
- A healthcare professional billing Medicaid and/or Medicare for medical procedures, such as surgeries or examinations, which were never actually conducted. Medicare fraud is a widespread problem throughout the United States, with the Office of Management and Budget estimating nearly $48 billion in improper Medicare payments in 2010.
- A government contractor falsely claiming compliance with federal safety regulations, such as those imposed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administratin (OSHA), when the pertinent regulations were in fact disregarded by the contractor.
- A pharmaceutical company which encourages doctors and other healthcare professionals to prescribe patients drugs for uses which have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. This tactic is commonly referred to as “off-label” marketing.
Furthermore, California Labor Code Section 1102.5 provides several additional protections for individual employees. Pursuant to Section 1102.5:
(a) Employers are prohibited from creating, adopting, or enforcing any rules, regulations, or policies which would prevent an employees from whistleblowing, provided the employee in question has “reasonable cause” to believe that the information he or she is providing relates to a violation of state or federal laws or regulations.
(b) Employers are prohibited from retaliating against whistleblower employees. Once again, this provision is contingent upon the employee’s “reasonable cause” in believing that a violation or act of noncompliance has occurred or is occurring.
(c) Similarly to the provision of subdivision (b), employers are also prohibited from retaliating against employees who refuse to participate in illegal, unlawful, and unethical acts which violate state or federal laws or regulations.
(d) Employers may not retaliate against an employee for having exercised his or her rights under subdivision (a), (b), or (c) in any former employment.
(e) A report made by an employee of a government agency to his or her employer is a disclosure of information to a government or law enforcement agency pursuant to subdivisions (a) and (b).
Section 1102.5 is designed to protect California whistleblowers’ legal rights. Employers who violate this statute may be subject to civil penalties, as well as additional damages stemming from lawsuits, couched as retaliation, in violation of public policy or wrongful termination in violation of public policy claims.
Contact Our Business Attorneys
If your company has been charged with committing fraud or other violations of the False Claims Act, the California Whistleblowers Protection Act, or Section 1102.5 of the California Labor Code, it is a serious matter which demands immediate attention from an experienced legal professional.
The employment law attorneys of Bellatrix PC represent entities of all structures and sizes, ranging from small start-ups to large and firmly established corporations, and are prepared to handle even highly complex multi-party litigation cases. Don’t wait until it’s already too late to address your legal issue: call the law offices of Bellatrix PC today at (800) 449-8992.