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What Is the Whistleblower Protection Act?

Whistleblowers offer a vital service to society when they report waste, fraud, abuse, or mismanagement. So important is this service, state and federal laws offer financial incentives and protect whistleblowers so employers and other entities do not retaliate against them. One of these critical laws is the Whistleblower Protection Act.

If you think your employer or other party is engaging in fraud or illegal activity and are worried about potential retaliation, contact the whistleblower and False Claims Act (FCA) attorneys at Nix Patterson today.

What Is the Whistleblower Protection Act?

The Whistleblower Protection Act — or WPA for short — protects any information disclosure by federal government workers that they think provides evidence of activities that violate rules, laws, or regulations. The WPA also protects those who provide information about mismanagement, waste of funds, abuses of authority, and a specific danger to safety and public health.

The Whistleblower Protection Act also protects against retaliation, including termination, pay reductions, and demotions for blowing the whistle, and offers legal solutions for whistleblowers who are retaliated against. The WPA also provides whistleblowers with confidentiality when they make their disclosures.

If you are a federal worker and think there has been fraud by the US government and you were punished, Nix Patterson can help by filing a whistleblower lawsuit. Our attorneys have recovered millions in these complex cases, including $72.3 million in the Specialty Surgical Hospital False Claims Act Recovery.

When Did the Whistleblower Protection Act Become Law?

The WPA became law as part of the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978. It was amended in 1989, 1994, and 2012.

The 2012 update is named the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA), which contains critical advances in the law, such as expanding what ‘protected disclosure’ means and allowing whistleblowers to receive compensation for damages.

Who Is Protected Under the Whistleblower Protection Act?

The WPA safeguards federal whistleblowers who work for the U.S. government. However, it excludes whistleblowers employed in the intelligence community and FBI employees. Instead, the law focuses on workers employed in an unclassified environment.

The law protects former federal workers and those applying for federal employment. However, the law does not protect federal contractors, military members, or U.S. Postal Service employees.

What About Federal Employees Who the Whistleblower Protection Act Does Not Cover?

The Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act of 1998 protects intelligence employees. Also offering protections are the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014 and Presidential Directive 19.

Why Is Protection Against Retaliation Important?

Whistleblower protection laws, including the WPA, prevent employers from retaliating against those who blow the whistle on waste, fraud, abuse, mismanagement, and related activities. Retaliation is when the employer takes adverse action against the person for engaging in whistleblower-related activities.

An adverse action would dissuade employees from raising concerns about potential violations or engaging in other protected against. Retaliation harms employees and can reduce worker morale. Adverse actions may be subtle, so pinpointing them isn’t always easy. Here are some examples:

  • Demotions
  • Termination
  • Disciplining
  • Denying benefits
  • Not hiring or rehiring
  • Harassment or intimidation
  • Threats
  • Reassignment to an undesirable position
  • Blacklisting
  • Changing pay or reducing work hours
  • Mocking, ostracizing, or isolating

What Is an Example of Whistleblower Retaliation?

Let’s say an employee informs her company that she contacted OSHA because she thinks there was a fire danger that the company wouldn’t fix. Let’s also say a company practice allows workers to swap shifts if they need time off. The employee attempted to change shifts a week after she contacted OSHA, but the company wouldn’t let her switch.

The Occupational Safety and Health Act states that workers have a right to contact OSHA to report hazardous work conditions, which is a protected activity under OSHA whistleblower laws. If the employer denied the employee a shift swap because she engaged in a protected activity, it could be considered a retaliation.

What Are Examples of Fraud and Potential Whistleblower Fraud Cases?

Many whistleblower cases involve fraud. If someone or a company attempts to obtain funds illegally from the US government, it is fraud and could be the subject of a whistleblower or False Claims Act lawsuit. Fraud can occur in almost any industry in which there are government contracts. Some examples are:

  • Defense contractor fraud
  • Pharmaceutical fraud
  • Environmental fraud
  • Healthcare fraud
  • Federal student loan fraud
  • Medicare and Medicaid fraud

If you’re a private citizen with substantial evidence of fraud against the U.S. government, you may be eligible to file a qui tam lawsuit with the help of a Nix Patterson attorney. A successful case may result in substantial compensation, meaning approximately 15%-30% of the recovered funds.

The qui tam provision was put in the FCA to encourage citizens to report entities and persons who defraud federal government programs. Qui tam lawsuits differ from others because the person who files isn’t directly affected. Anyone with original detailed information about fraud against the federal government can file a qui tam lawsuit and is protected against retaliation.

How Do You Prove Whistleblower Retaliation?

It can seem obvious that the whistleblower was retaliated against for reporting a violation or fraud. But the case has to be proven. So, to prove that an employer retaliated, you need to prove causation, which means you have to show a direct connection between the reported wrongdoing and the adverse action that was taken. In many whistleblower cases, the adverse action is wrongful termination.

Companies may conceal their illegal action behind several “legitimate causes” for firing you, such as:

  • Laying people off because of questionable economic reasons
  • They say things are not working out with you
  • They say that the job is not an ideal fit for you
  • The employer says you engaged in misconduct

However, remember that this is just the start if you were fired in retaliatory action. When you think an employer retaliated against you for blowing the whistle, speak to an attorney immediately. You could be entitled to compensation if you have been retaliated against. But you need to have considerable evidence to build a strong case for retaliation.

Contact the Whistleblower and FCA Attorneys at Nix Patterson

Whistleblower cases are complex, but Nix Patteron’s attorneys can help. We understand you might be hesitant to file a lawsuit, but our attorneys will treat your case with complete confidentiality.

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