What is a Whistleblower Lawsuit?
A whistleblower lawsuit may take different forms depending on your situation. For instance, if you know that an employer or another group is defrauding the government, you can be proactive in filing a lawsuit to report the fraud and potentially recover a reward. Several laws protect whistleblowers.
If you reported your employer for illicit activities and suffered retaliation as a result, you can file a lawsuit to recover damages. These may include lost wages, back pay, front pay, or non-economic damages.
When Should I File a Whistleblower Lawsuit?
Whistleblower laws are plentiful and confusing without legal expertise in this area. It’s best to rely on the advice of a whistleblower lawyer. Depending on what has happened and the laws that apply, you may be allowed to file a lawsuit, or you may need to file a complaint with a government agency first. In general, you may want to file a lawsuit or a complaint in the following situations:
- You have information about your employer or another organization involved in fraud that leads to financial losses for the government.
- You know that a company is violating environmental laws or harming public health.
- You have information about a company engaged in financial fraud, causing losses for shareholders.
- You have evidence of tax fraud.
- Your employer is violating workplace health and safety laws.
- You have informed on your employer, resulting in retaliation such as losing your job or being denied a promotion.
What Are the Steps in a Whistleblower Lawsuit?
Several different government agencies have laws related to whistleblowers. Rather than file a lawsuit, you may need to file a complaint with one of these agencies. Your lawyer will help you with that process. If you have experienced retaliation at work, you may want to file a lawsuit, following these steps:
- File a complaint. Your lawyer will file an official complaint with the court system to start the lawsuit, notifying the defendants.
- Discovery. The complaint triggers a period for investigations and discovery. The defendants’ lawyers will build a case to disprove your allegations while your lawyer investigates, gathers evidence, and works with experts. There may also be depositions and sharing of information during this time.
- Negotiations. Many cases like these end with a negotiation rather than a trial. If your evidence is solid, your employer will probably want to avoid a trial and offer you back pay and benefits and possibly other damages.
- A trial. Your employer may take the risk of going to court. Both sides will argue in front of a jury, presenting evidence and witnesses. The jury determines if your employer broke whistleblower laws.
How Will My Lawyer Prove Retaliation?
Your lawyer will need as much documentation as you can provide to prove that being fired or other measures resulted from your whistleblowing. You’ll need to show that the information you had and how you reported it constituted protected activity under the law.
You also must prove that your employer suspected or knew you took an action against them, and they made an adverse employment decision as a result. This is the part that can be tricky to prove. Your lawyer will use your employment and pay records, performance reviews, communications with your employer, and possibly testimony from co-workers. The dates on these items are crucial. The sooner you experienced retaliation after whistleblowing, the easier it is to prove.
What is My Whistleblower Lawsuit Worth?
If you file a lawsuit against your employer for retaliation, you may be able to recover damages based on several factors:
- You may claim back pay from being wrongfully fired from your job.
- If going back to the same job is not feasible, you may claim front pay, wages you miss out on as you look for another job.
- Any other expenses that resulted from losing your job, such as travel expenses to find additional work.
- You may also be able to claim for attorney and court fees.
- You may get non-economic damages for pain and suffering caused by the treatment you received.
If you have information about a company or organization engaged in fraud with the federal government, you may get a reward for informing. The first whistleblower law in the country, the False Claims Act, established qui tam.
If you have credible information about someone defrauding the government, it could help the government recoup those losses. Qui tam entitles you to a monetary reward. The amount is usually 15% to 30% of the amount the government recovers.
What is the Statute of Limitations on Whistleblower Lawsuits?
There are several different time limits on filing a complaint or a lawsuit over whistleblower incidents. The limit depends on the situation and the law that applies. For instance, with a qui tam lawsuit, you usually have six years from the time of the fraud or three years from when you notified the government.
The statute of limitations on filing a complaint with a government agency may be much shorter, less than a year in many cases. States also have their own time limits applied to whistleblower laws. Talk to a lawyer as soon as possible to make sure you don’t miss these important deadlines.
A whistleblower lawsuit is a big step to take, and it can be a lengthy and confusing process. Work with an experienced lawyer to help you decide what to do and to get the best outcome.