We might start here by defining the term “whistleblower.” A whistleblower is any person who decides to inform on a powerful person or organization engaged in wrongdoing. Their aim is ultimately to stop the wrongdoing by exposing it. Often, whistleblowers have only been privy to the wrongdoing because work or operate within the organization or in the employ of the person doing the wrongdoing. This means that whistleblowing often comes at significant risk and great potential expense to the whistleblower themselves.
Whistleblowers, by definition, have made the decision to be brave for the greater good. These are people who have seen injustice taking place, and have decided to do something about it. Many injustices are enabled by people seeing them and deciding that they can’t or won’t do anything about it. Whistleblowers, on the other hand, take things into their own hands, and make the change happen themselves.
As such, whistleblowers are recognized and offered protections by both state and federal law. On a federal level, this includes the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which prevents employees who report fraud from being fired, harassed, otherwise retaliated against. OSHA (the Occupation Safety and Health Administration) also has provisions that protect employees who report violations in a number of fields, including securities and corporate accounting, as well as atomic energy, air pollution, waste disposal, aviation, water quality and sanitation, and toxic substance handling.
On a state level, Louisiana also has a number of whistleblower laws, including both a general and an environmental whistleblower protection statute. These statutes offer a wide range of protections to whistleblowing employees, including whistleblowers reporting to an external agency as well as internal whistleblowers. It also protects employees who refuse to participate in any activity that violates laws, statutes, or protocols in the best interest of the public.
One of the strongest legal protections for whistleblowers can be found in a federal law called the False Claims Act. The False Claims Act contains a provision referred to as “qui tam,” which specifically deals with whistleblowers reveal fraud against the US government. It states that any individual or non-governmental organization can file a lawsuit in US Courts on behalf of the US government, in order to reveal any fraud that causes financial losses to the US government. In addition to protections against retaliation, the qui tam provision allows for these sorts of whistleblowers to be rewarded for disclosing the fraud. If the information revealed by the whistleblower results in a successful prosecution, whistleblowers are entitled to a mandatory award of 15% to 30% of the proceeds from the suit. In federal fraud cases, the defendant is often liable for civil as well as criminal charges, in addition to tremble damages. This means that the portion allocated to the whistleblower is often quite substantial.
If you know of a situation where someone is defrauding the US government financially and you want to report them, the very first move you should make is to contact an experienced, knowledgeable attorney who has experience with federal whistleblowing cases. An attorney will absolutely be necessary in order to proceed through this sort of case in a way that protects your best interests.
While there are many whistleblower protection laws on both the federal and state levels, they tend to be incredibly complex, and are full of potential loopholes. These loopholes are obvious to opposition attorneys, who are able to easily trip up any unrepresented laypeople attempting to move a case through the system. This can quickly become dangerous to the individual in question, and puts them at a serious disadvantage.
An attorney who is well-versed in these many complex whistleblowing laws can make sure none of that happens to you. They can also perform a number of different services to make sure your case actually survives the legal process.
Do you have a whistleblowing case? Attorney Van Robichaux is ready to help. Call (504) 332-8188 for a free consultation today.