The Federal False Claims Act (FCA) rewards and protects whistleblowers who expose companies and individuals that defraud the government. Companies and individuals in violation of the FCA may be required to pay three times the dollar amount that the government lost due to fraud (known as treble damages), as well as civil penalties of $5,500 to $11,000 for each false claim submitted to the government.
Under the FCA, whistleblowers can be awarded up to 30% of any funds the government recovers through a successful whistleblower lawsuit, or qui tam lawsuit. The FCA also protects whistleblowers from retaliation by their employers for reporting a fraud.
Compensation for Whistleblowers after Retaliation
Whistleblowers with retaliation claims may be entitled to monetary damages, in addition to any whistleblower reward. In a whistleblower retaliation claim, the whistleblower receives an award for the damages that the whistleblower personally suffered, which is intended to make the whistleblower whole. The government is not entitled to share in the damages that the whistleblower recovers from the retaliation claim.
A whistleblower who successfully brings a retaliation claim under the FCA may be rehired at their job, receive two times the amount of back pay plus interest, and may receive other special damages and attorneys’ fees. Many state False Claims Acts have similar damages provisions for retaliation.
For example, Missouri’s Whistleblower Protection Law prohibits employers from retaliating against an employee for reporting healthcare fraud. An employer who violates this law must reinstate the employee’s position without loss of seniority and pay two times the amount of lost back pay, plus interest.
Whistleblower Anti-Retaliation Laws
The anti-retaliation provision of the FCA protects whistleblowers from being discharged, demoted, suspended, threatened, harassed, or in any other manner discriminated against by his or her employer for reporting the employer’s violations of the False Claims Act — including investigating, initiating, testifying, or assisting with a whistleblower lawsuit or investigation.
To make a whistleblower retaliation claim under the FCA’s whistleblower laws, an employee must demonstrate that:
- He or she engaged in “protected activity” (i.e. acts done in furtherance of a whistleblower lawsuit under the False Claims Act)
- He or she was discriminated against “because of” that activity