Did you know that you could be entitled to bring a California whistleblower lawsuit if you can show that your employer was involved in illegal behavior that defrauded the government? Both state and federal laws protect whistleblowers who choose to come forward with reasonable concerns over these types of violations. Employees who have suffered because of an employer’s behavior and retaliatory action could also be entitled to a separate lawsuit for harm done due to these retaliatory actions.
Most California whistleblowers could take advantage of the option to sit down with an attorney and discuss their individual case and options first. Revealing a possible violation to someone at work is an obvious next step for a person who might ultimately file a California whistleblower lawsuit, but speaking with a lawyer could help to clarify some of the key issues impacting a whistleblower, too.
Options for Filing California Whistleblower Lawsuits
In California, the whistleblower law is known as the California False Claims Act.
A whistleblower who believes he or she has information about pertinent fraud or illegal activity could bring a California whistleblower lawsuit. Much like many other state versions of the False Claims Acts, this is a statute based on the federal False Claims Act that enables a whistleblower to start a qui tam lawsuit if they know of instances in which the local, county or state government or government agency is being defrauded.
A California whistleblower lawsuit is something that an employee with evidence or suspicion of wrongdoing might consider as a way of alerting the government to potential fraud, but this can still be a nerve-wracking situation. The protections and rewards in place for whistleblowers are there to help pursue these kinds of cases, as many, but not all, California whistleblower lawsuits are brought about by an individual who has inside information. The government relies on these whistleblowers to report problems and examples of fraud about which the government might not otherwise be aware of, and a whistleblower often plays a key role in bringing these cases.
A whistleblower who has reasonable grounds to believe that fraud is occurring or has occurred, and takes a proactive step to address it, may get protection from a retaliatory action under the law. Employers in California are prohibited from taking retaliatory action against an employee who is exercising his or her whistleblower rights.
Clear instances of retaliation can include being demoted or being fired. However, there are other types of retaliation that can occur in a workplace that target an employee who has taken action to report fraud. This can include denied raises, denied training, denied advancement, layoffs, a denied promotion, transfer to a different poorly paying job, poor evaluations, and withdrawal of benefits. Occasionally, an employee could also be subjected to harassment by other employees or workers. Anyone who has attempted to report wrongdoing could face significant threats or problems in the workplace. Sometimes employers encourage this such that the whistleblower is essentially forced to leave his or her position. Simply threatening retaliation does constitute retaliation under state laws.
Violations for retaliation due to filing a California whistleblower lawsuit could enable the employee to recover compensation. Whistleblowers who suffer employment retaliation after recovering an award or even participating in a California whistleblower lawsuit could be entitled to reinstatement with the same seniority status that the whistleblower would have had except for the retaliation, interest on back pay, two times the amount of back pay owed, compensation for special damages and in some situations punitive damages.
Whistleblower Rewards for California Whistleblower Lawsuits
If the California Attorney General or political subdivision recovers funds due to the whistleblower’s qui tam case, a whistleblower could be entitled to a portion of the recovery obtained as high as 33%. The state or local government can also decide not to participate in a whistleblower lawsuit and the whistleblower can continue with the case on their own. A California whistleblower lawsuit pursued by an individual, without government intervention, means that a potential whistleblower reward can increase to up to 25% to 50% of the total amount recovered.
The defendant could also be required to pay litigation costs and reasonable attorney fees.
It is important for those thinking about filing a California whistleblower lawsuit to be aware of the statute of limitations. Whistleblowers need to initiate a qui tam complaint no later than six years after the alleged violations they are reported. There are very rare cases in which this time period for filing can be extended.
There are many different types of reasons to exercise your rights under the California False Claims Act and bring a California whistleblower lawsuit. This state law has been used in many different whistleblower cases, such as those including goods and services, fraud, construction contract fraud, Medicaid fraud, and more. According to some estimates, the state of California has recovered more than $1 billion due to whistleblower cases. In many instances, whistleblowers are encouraged to come forward with information and given these protections and potential awards for reporting fraud that the state government might not otherwise have been aware of it. If this applies to you, consider consulting with an experienced California whistleblower lawsuit lawyer.