If you believe that you have information about fraud against the government, you could participate in a Pennsylvania whistleblower lawsuit. This form of lawsuit is one that allows a private individual to bring an action on behalf of the government when instances of illegal or fraudulent behavior have occurred.
History of the Pennsylvania Whistleblower Act
Originally passed in 1986, this statewide act applied only to those employees working in the public sector. The Pennsylvania Whistleblower Act prohibits employers from retaliating or discriminating if an employee came forward with a good faith report about waste or wrongdoing. Any violation of a code of ethics, an ordinance, or a state, federal, or local law is a form of wrongdoing that could be raised in a whistleblower.
Examples of Violations Raised by Whistleblowers
Whistleblowers play an important role in letting the government and public know about insider practices or omissions against the law, including:
- Rule or regulation violations
- Laws that have been ignored or openly violated
- Information about government contractors who have misused funds
- Situations in which a company has created a danger to public health and safety
- That a company is cheating on taxes or lying about their financial situation
Employees are still protected even if the worker is only about to or is planning to take steps to make a report or if someone else acting on the employee’s behalf is making a Pennsylvania whistleblower report.
Not every whistleblower claim will enable the employee involved to recover compensation.
Damages Available to Employees Retaliated Against After Making a Report
In general, most employers have the right to terminate employment with a worker at any time and for any cause that does not otherwise violate the law. However, there is a public policy exception to this at-will employment doctrine. This means that an employee can sue for wrongful discharge when the motivation for that discharge violates some grounds of public policy.
Employee who engage in protected activities, such as raising a report about alleged whistleblower issues, are protection from retaliation.
There are certain activities specifically protected by the state, including:
- Refusing to violate any existing laws
- Testifying truthfully about a situation involving fraud
- Reporting activities believed to be a violation of the law
A Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision from 2018 held that employees who were discriminated against could be entitled to recover non-economic damages in a lawsuit. This law is no longer strictly limited to public employers. Instead, it has been interpreted that any employee who exposes wrongdoing by a private employer who gets public funds is also covered under the Pennsylvania Whistleblower Law.
Can a Whistleblower Be Anonymous?
Despite employee protections regarding whistleblower activity, some employees still want to protect their identity. If an employee wants to file a claim under the Pennsylvania Whistleblower Law, he/she cannot remain anonymous. However, if the individual wants to file under the federal False Claims Act, initially, anonymity can be accomplished.
Usually, the first stages of filing a claim can be done with some level of confidentiality. However, once the case comes out from under seal and if the government has to litigate or go to trial over the issue, the whistleblower’s identity and information might be revealed.
This is one reason why a person in this position might choose to contact an experienced Pennsylvania whistleblower lawyer to have a better understanding of how the process works and what might be revealed within a case.
Many whistleblowers find it gratifying to raise the alarm about illegal or fraudulent activities and to finally be heard about their concerns. The process can be confusing and overwhelming. Additionally, filing a case as a whistleblower does not guarantee any recovery. These cases can even go on for months or years.
In addition to empowering employees to raise their concerns about fraud or abuse, employees also get protection from discrimination and retaliation carried out by an employer who attempts to use the reported issue against that worker. Civil remedies are available to affected employees including damages or an injunction for an employee who made a good faith effort to report wrongdoing and instead ended up facing discrimination on the part of the employer.
Federal False Claims Act Basics for PA Whistleblowers
The federal government in the U.S. is a major source of revenue for private companies all over the country, including in Pennsylvania. The False Claims Act is the primary method used to root out waste and fraud when an employee notices instances of fraud. These acts can include using false records to get a claim paid, defrauding the federal government by any means, or possessing property or money owned by the government illegally and returning less than all of it.
If the Attorney General intervenes in these cases, the Pennsylvania whistleblower could receive between 15 and 25 percent of the damages recovered by the suit. If the Attorney General elects not to intervene in the case, the individual whistleblower could recover up to 30 percent of damages.
Getting Help with PA Whistleblower Claims
If you need help with what to do after you have already filed a whistleblower report or if you need advice about how to handle a current situation involving fraud or legal violations, schedule a time to speak with our experienced PA whistleblower lawyers today.