FindLaw KnowledgeBasePublished: 2012-01-19
Whistle-blowing occurs when someone informs either internal or external authorities of illegal, fraudulent or dishonest actions occurring at their place of employment.
There have been many famous whistle-blowers throughout American history, perhaps none more so than Jeffrey Wigand. According to MSNBC, Wigand worked for “Big Tobacco,” and it was his leaks of indecent corporate behavior that led to government regulations of the tobacco industry. Other now infamous organizations that defrauded the government, which were first uncovered by an employee, include Worldcom and Enron.
Of course, not all fraudulent behavior occurs within Fortune 500 companies or high profile government agencies — many cases arise from privately owned businesses, contracting agencies and health care companies.
Should You Report Dishonest Behavior?
Anyone who witnesses dishonest or illegal activities within their organization should report the behavior to authorities immediately. However, most people are hesitant to report their employer because they fear repercussions, and most are not aware whistle-blowers are protected by state and federal law. For example, Illinois citizens are protected under the Illinois Whistle-blower Reward and Protection Act, as well as the federal False Claims Act.
Protections Under the FCA and the IWRPA
The government realized long ago that it does not have the means to identify all fraud committed against it. As a result, the government decided to allow citizens to file suit on its behalf. The government realized that civilians often have first-hand knowledge of fraud and are thus able to report fraud, which might have otherwise gone undetected.
Additionally, apart from a moral obligation to report dishonest behavior, whistle-blowers have a monetary incentive as well. Substantial rewards are given to people who give information leading to a government recovery. These rewards occasionally are worth millions of dollars to anyone who blows the whistle.
One major concern of potential whistleblowers, however, is that their employer may retaliate and punish them for revealing its fraudulent actions. Both the FCA and the IWRPA severely punish employers who discharge, demote, suspend, harass or discriminate against anyone who legally reports fraud under either law, so there is no risk to come forward with your information.
Reporting Fraud Under the FCA and the IWRPA
Both the IWRPA and the FCA require strict adherence to their procedural requirements or a whistleblower risks having their case dismissed. Therefore, obtaining the services of an experienced whistleblower attorney is vital to the success of a claim. A qualified attorney can ensure compliance with procedures and can also help protect people against employer retribution once the case is completed. Don’t hesitate to speak with an experienced False Claims Act lawyer immediately.