Protect Your Legal Rights and Get Compensation With Experienced Whistleblower Lawyers
Good people know what’s right and what’s wrong. But a corporation is not a person; it can’t have a conscience. Instead, a corporation must rely on its employees to act as its conscience. A corporation is only responsible to its stockholders to show a profit; after all, a corporation is not a charity. So, when an employee sees his or her corporate employer doing something wrong, either violating the law or harming others, that employee has a responsibility as a good citizen and neighbor to speak up. This role is so important to society that the law protects such a guardian of right and wrong from harm or retaliation, whether the employee works in government or the private sector. At Parker Waichman LLP, we work hard to defend whistleblowers’ rights and make sure that the laws protecting them are upheld.
What Is a Whistleblower?
A whistleblower is someone who exposes illegal, dangerous or unethical activity to public scrutiny. In 19th century America, a whistleblower was a regular person or law enforcement officer who used a whistle to warn the town of danger, whether it be a crime in progress or a riot. In this way, the people of the community could avoid injury to themselves and their property. Today, we’ve adopted that same term, “whistleblower,” to describe a courageous individual who warns others by reporting the illegal, dangerous or harmful actions of an employer. Such actions could hurt other people, harm the government or defraud others.
Just how important are whistleblowers to society? So important that the law allows whistleblowers to remain anonymous during most of the whistleblower litigation process. Whistleblowers also typically receive compensation, or a “reward,” for protecting the public.
Blowing the Whistle on Illegal Corporate Activities: A Courageous Act
Make no mistake: It takes courage to be the employee who blows the whistle on a company for its unethical or illegal maneuvers. Being caught doing something wrong can be costly to a corporation and a corporation’s job is to make money. In the corporate world, it may well be easier to silence whistleblowers by punishing them or threatening them with punishment before they speak out. Such punishment can include internal pressure from bosses, managers, executives, and other employees in order to prevent someone from “blowing the whistle.” That creates a hostile work environment, which can include reprimands, demotion, and perhaps even loss of benefits or firing. The mere threat of these actions is sometimes enough to have a chilling effect on the employee who knows the company is doing wrong, but believes they are powerless to intervene.
But some employees are willing to take the risk and “stick their necks out,” no matter what the consequence, to prevent their employer from causing potential injury or possible death; violating the law or not operating in the best interests of their shareholders. Top whistleblower attorneys can help whistleblowers find just compensation when they have suffered for doing what is right.
What Is Retaliation Under Whistleblower Laws?
Generally, retaliation is any unfair or damaging employment action taken as a result of an employee exercising their rights. Types of retaliation experienced when an employee exercises their rights may include:
- Demoting an employee
- Placing an employee on a “blacklist”
- Preventing advancement of the employee through overtime work or promotions
- Unwarranted employee discipline
- Denying benefits or access to accrued benefits like paid time off
- Refusing to hire or rehire after a layoff period
- Discharge from employment by firing or being laid off
- Exposure to hostilities in the workplace, including intimidation and threats of adverse consequences
- Reassignment to a position that could prevent or inhibit promotion or career advancement
- Denial of a raise
- Reducing pay or cutting hours
The adverse employment action need not be entirely based on the employee’s exercise of their rights to invoke whistleblower protections. Retaliation may be found when your employer takes a personnel action against you that is motivated, at least in part, by your exposure of their wrongdoing.
Retaliation for blowing the whistle on unlawful corporate or governmental practices is illegal. If your employer retaliated against you for calling out their illegal practices, Parker Waichman can help you fight back. Our whistleblower attorneys have vast experience representing employees who suffered adverse consequences for acting as the conscience of a corporation. Parker Waichman’s whistleblower attorneys are well-versed in the federal and state laws that protect whistleblowers and punish companies that take revenge against an employee for doing the right thing.
What Are Your Rights as a Whistleblower?
You have the right to raise the alarm about a corporate activity that might be unlawful. You also have the right to file a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) if you experience retaliation as a result of this action. OSHA has the authority to investigate retaliation. However, it’s important to note that some states have their own whistleblower protection laws and that other federal statutes contain whistleblower provisions that complement the protections afforded to employees by OSHA. Other specially appointed agencies, like the Office of Special Counsel and the Office of the Inspector General, also have whistleblower protection powers.
Whistleblower laws protect employees in situations when the employee reports illegal activity committed by the company to the appropriate authorities. The definition of “employee” under federal whistleblower rules is expansive, including not only current employees, but applicants and former employees as well.
For example, a federal agency or private-sector employer is prohibited from taking adverse employment action against an employee who refuses to engage in business practices that defraud the government. In other words, the employee has the right to not engage in criminal activity. The employer should not make the employee choose between violating the law and not receiving a paycheck. Whistleblower laws would protect that employee when reporting the abuse to law enforcement or another appropriate authority.
Another example of an employee whistleblower protection would be protection for an employee who reports harassment in the workplace. Harassment can take many forms, including sexual harassment, bullying, and mistreatment based upon sexual orientation, age or race. State and federal laws prohibit employers from punishing employees who exercise their rights to be free from harassment in the workplace. If this describes your situation, consult with a lawyer. For the whistleblower who has suffered from retaliation, legal help is the best path toward justice.
What Do You Have to Prove to Win a Whistleblower Claim?
Typically, whistleblower cases hinge on proving four things:
- The employee took an action consistent with their rights as a person, such as testifying in court, reporting a crime or reporting fraud, abuse or a safety violation.
- The employer knew or suspected that the employee undertook this action.
- The employee suffered some adverse employment consequence.
- The unfavorable personnel action was either wholly, or in part, due to the employee performing the protected activity.
How Do You Prove an Adverse Personnel Activity?
The legal requirements listed above must be satisfied by a preponderance of the credible evidence for the victim to be awarded damages. An adverse personnel activity can be difficult to prove or relatively simple depending on the facts and circumstances of the specific whistleblower claim.
The preponderance of evidence standard is a fairly low standard of proof. Satisfying it may be as easy as convincing a fact-finder, whether it be a judge, a jury or a merit rating board over a federal employee or equivalent state agency for a state employee, that the allegations are more likely true than not. Most often, the standard is that the plaintiff must prove the truth of the accusations with 51% certainty. By contrast, the standard of proof the government is required to meet for a defendant to be found guilty of a criminal offense is beyond a reasonable doubt, which is the highest standard of proof recognized in our system of law.
Proof of an adverse claim may take either or both of two forms: direct or circumstantial evidence. Direct evidence is a personal observation. For example, if a person watches a manager fire an employee, then that is direct evidence of the event occurring. Direct evidence is useful only when the person who is recounting the event is credible. Circumstantial evidence, on the other hand, is best described by using the mailbox analogy. Suppose you check your mailbox on your way out the door to work and you see nothing inside. You do the same when you come home and find that there is a letter addressed to you in the mailbox. Based on your experience as a person living in the United States, you know that the U.S. Postal Service delivers the mail. Therefore, you can reasonably conclude that your letter carrier delivered the letter to you while you were at work.
Both types of evidence are essential in a whistleblower suit. Direct evidence would come from the victim of the retaliation when they testify about what happened to them after they took a protected action. They could also have direct evidence that their employer took adverse action against them from another source, but that is unlikely: Employers usually know about whistleblower laws, and consequently, they will be more careful. If that is the case, then the victim must turn to circumstantial evidence to prove the employer’s intent in a whistleblower lawsuit. Circumstantial evidence of an adverse personnel action might be receiving a poor performance review shortly after you blow the whistle on a corporate practice, even though your work has not diminished and you have a track record of good reviews. With this type of evidence, you can show that your employer knew about your actions and then took steps to retaliate against you for them.
What Are the Remedies for a Violation of a Whistleblower’s Rights?
The remedies available to aggrieved employees depend on the individual statutes under which the employee seeks protection. Generally, a court or administrative agency will award back pay, incidental damages for things such as damage to your reputation and emotional distress, costs of litigation, and reasonable attorneys’ fees. Additionally, the court or agency can order your employer to reinstate you in the position you had before your employer took adverse action against you, as well as require any other injunctive relief that is necessary to protect the employee. Additionally, the court or agency can order the employer to restore health insurance, retirement plans, and seniority to pre-retaliatory levels or award a promotion if the facts of the case and justice so require. Furthermore, the fact-finder can order the offending company or agency to pay punitive damages.
Some statutes also provide specific monetary awards for whistleblowers. For instance, the Dodd-Frank Act contains a provision that encourages individuals to come forward and report violations of the law to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Under the Dodd-Frank Act, a whistleblower who comes forward on their own can receive between 10 and 30 percent of the total amount of damages collected by the SEC or other authorities for providing information about a violation of the law. Under the False Claims Act, the government can prosecute an action the name of the whistleblower against the employer. This is called a “qui tam” action, from the French “in the name of the King.” When the government wins its qui tam action, the whistleblower gets a reward in the form of a percentage of what the government recovers.
Laws That Contain Whistleblower Protections
A wide variety of whistleblowing laws are on the books nationwide, contained within numerous federal and state statutes. It’s impossible to list every law granting whistleblower protection to employees, but here are some of the major federal laws that include whistleblower protections:
- Sarbanes-Oxley Act
- Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act
- Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act
- Clean Air Act
- Environmental Response Act
- Consumer Financial Protection Act
- Consumer Product Safety Act
- Energy Reorganization Act
- Federal Railroad Safety Act
- Federal Water Pollution Control Act
- International Safe Container Act
- Motor Vehicle Safety Acts
- National Transit System Safety Act
- Occupational Safety and Health Act
- Pipeline Safety Improvement Act
- Safe Drinking Water Act
- Seaman’s Protection Act
- Section 402 of the Food and Drug Administration Food Safety Modernization Act
- Section 1558 of the Affordable Care Act
- Solid Waste Disposal Act
- Surface Transportation Assistance Act
- Toxic Substances Control Act
- Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act
- Title VII, which protects those who report sexual harassment
- Fair Labor Standards Act
- Civil Rights Act
- False Claims Act
- Whistleblower Protection Act
- Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act
The False Claims Act
The False Claims Act (FCA)(codified at 31 U.S.C. §3729, et seq.) outlines a very in-depth process for the filing and pursuit of fraud committed against the federal government. The complaint in what is known as a whistleblower action sealed with copies that are sent to the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) as well as the local United States Attorney and the District Court judge that is assigned to the case. Once the complaint is filed, the government will muster all of its resources to conduct an investigation of the allegations raised therein.
The FCA provides that any individual who knowingly submits false claims to the government is liable for twice the amount of the government’s damages, plus a $2000 penalty for each claim that is false. Pursuant to amendments of the FCA, violators of the law will be held liable for treble damages (i.e., triple the amount of actual/compensatory damages) plus an inflationary penalty.
The investigation typically includes specific techniques of investigation, including interviews of witnesses, subpoenas for electronic records or documents, consultations with experts, and compelled oral testimony from individuals or entities. If there is a corresponding criminal investigation, criminal investigation tools such as search warrants can be used to obtain additional evidence
Once the investigation process is over, the DOJ will then determine whether to intervene in one or all of the counts of the whistleblower action. If the DOJ chooses not to intervene, the relator in the case may pursue the action on behalf of the U.S., however, the U.S. is not a party to the action apart from its right to recover damages.
When choosing to pursue a whistleblower case, the whistleblower should examine the FCA statutory provisions, and must also consider the following:
- The whistleblower should possess actual knowledge of the fraud more than just a suspicion. In this view, the whistleblower must provide information as to the details of the fraud, including tangible evidence to substantiate their claims.
- The evidence of fraud cannot come from a publicly disclosed source such as a magazine, newspaper, television, court record, Congressional hearing, Freedom of Information Act request, or administrative hearing.
- Federal funds must be involved, or if the fraud was perpetrated against a state, state funds must be involved.
- The entity or individual that submitted the false claims to the federal government must have knowingly done so.
- The fraud cannot involve a state attempting to defraud the federal government; however, it may include a municipality or county.
- In general, a whistleblower case must be brought forth within six years of the violation.
- The type of fraud needs to be sizeable. Moreover, there must be a reasonable expectation that the individual or entity involved in the fraud must be able to pay the associated fines and return the stolen money to the federal government.
The FCA was originally created in 1863 and was sponsored by President Lincoln due to pervasive fraud that was committed by contractors of the government during the Civil War. Under the FCA, a private individual can bring forth a whistleblower claim on behalf of himself or herself and the U.S. against any individual or entity who presented a fraudulent or false claim to the government. Keep in mind that whistleblowers can receive a reward of fifteen to thirty percent of the government’s recovery.
The FCA was not widely used after its inception, and as such, it was not a successful deterrent against fraud. However, Congress amended the FCLA in 1986, which was intended to make the act an effective tool in fighting against fraud.
The Securities and Exchange Commission’s Whistleblower Program
The Whistleblower Program
Fraud related to securities not only affects investors, it also affects the integrity of the market as a whole. In order to combat securities fraud, the 2919 Dodd-Frank Act was enacted to create the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) Whistleblower Reward Program, the purpose of which is to reward those who report wrongdoing involving securities.
Wrongdoing that supports a whistleblower claim include, without limitation, the following:
- Pyramid schemes, Ponzi schemes, and other related types of fraud;
- Accounting and auditing misconduct, including accounting statements that do not accurately represent the operations or value of a company and the failure to follow applicable accounting standards;
- Misleading and false SEC reports and failing to file required reports;
- Insider trading;
- Misappropriation of funds and securities, theft, and embezzlement;
- Securities “pump-and-dump” schemes and other types of market manipulation;
- Bribery; and
- Unregistered or fraudulent securities offerings.
Who Qualifies as a Whistleblower?
To qualify as a whistleblower and take part in the rewards program:
- The whistleblower must possess original information securities-related misconduct or fraud that occurred in the past, is currently occurring, or will soon occur. Original information means information that the SEC is does not already know about.
- The whistleblower must voluntarily offer the SEC the information pertaining to the misconduct. You cannot qualify as a whistleblower if you provide information pursuant to a court order, a subpoena, or by other similar methods.
- The information the whistleblower provides must result in a successful SEC enforcement action. It may be a while before the SEC acts on the information provided to them, but it is required to reach a resolution that involves monetary sanctions.
Keep in mind that the monetary reward collection must be greater than $1 million. The whistleblower would then be entitled to receive between ten to thirty percent of those monetary sanctions. An individual does not have to be a citizen of the United States or reside therein to file a claim
Protecting Whistleblowers from Employer Retaliation
Reporting misconduct and fraud takes courage, as many companies engage in retaliatory behavior against whistleblowers. These actions are illegal, and the law provides for significant protections against those who engage in such behavior. This means that an employer cannot demote, fire, threaten, suspend, harass, or engage in discriminatory behavior towards a whistleblower. If a whistleblower experiences retaliatory behavior, he or she can file a lawsuit to be reinstated to his or her position as well as receive damages such as back pay and other damages.
How Does the SEC Determine Whistleblower Rewards
As noted above, eligible whistleblowers may be entitled to receive between ten and thirty percent of monetary sanctions that are worth over $1 million, as long as the SEC receives the money. The SEC considers the following when deciding the exact percentage to award a whistleblower:
- The level of significance of the details provided to the SEC;
- How much the individual(and, if applicable, his or her attorney) assists and cooperates with the SEC;
- Whether the individual thwarted the SEC’s investigation;
- Whether the individual engaged in misconduct; and
- The time it took for the individual to report the wrongdoing.
Recent Amendments to the SEC Whistleblower Program Rules
On September 23, 2020, the SEC voted to amend the applicable whistleblower rules in order to increase the transparency and efficiency of the program and to provide greater clarify to whistleblowers. Click here to learn more about the recent amendments.
The IRS Tax Whistleblower Rewards Program
The Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006 created the IRS Tax Whistleblower Reward Program (the “Program”) and the IRS Whistleblower Office, the function of which is to work directly with eligible whistleblowers and to provide them with a portion of the government’s recovery in a given case. While the IRS had a similar program in place before 2006, it was not effective as a whole and did not allow for whistleblowers to receive a percentage of the government’s reward.
The Basics IRS Whistleblower Cases
In order to receive an award, a whistleblower must have credible and specific evidence indicating that a certain taxpayer is underpaying or avoiding paying taxes owed to the IRS, whether due to fraud or otherwise. Moreover, the information provided by the whistleblower must contribute in a substantial manner to the recovery of the government by a minimum of $2 million total, which includes penalties and interest. This means that most of the whistleblower cases in this regard involve substantial tax avoidance schemes, fraud committed by individuals with high net worth, and corporate tax fraud.m
About the Program
The Program enables a whistleblower to collect from fifteen to thirty percent of tax collections resulting from the whistleblower reporting the wrongdoing to the IRS as long as the total recovery exceeds $2 million. It is important to note that the reward is only paid in scenarios where the IRS manages to collect the taxes, interest, and penalties that are owed. The reward will not be payable until the expiration of the period of time for the taxpayer to file for a refund.
The Process Set Forth by the Program
As noted above, the IRS has created an office that exclusively handles whistleblower claims. The whistleblower office has certain guidelines and recommendations that a whistleblower must adhere to. An IRS whistleblower must submit their documentation evincing wrongdoing to the office through the use of an IRS Form 211. As such, the process differs from a federal lawsuit, and the whistleblower need not file a complaint in court.
After the Form 211 is submitted, the IRS will review the whistleblower’s documentation and determine what course of action they should pursue, such as whether an enforcement proceeding or audit against the wrongdoer should be commenced. Keep in mind that while a whistleblower may be interviewed once by the IRS, the IRS has very stringent tax privacy laws that prohibit disclosure of the actions it has taken on a whistleblower case or the status of an investigation. When a whistleblower case is completed, the whistleblower will be notified regarding the amount of compensation of which they are entitled to receive.
Unlike under the False Claims Act, IRS whistleblowers do not have the right to be a party in a resulting enforcement case brought forth by the IRS against a wrongdoer. If the IRS decides not to proceed in an enforcement action, the IRS whistleblower does not have the option of independently pursuing such an action.
The Main Aspects of the Program
- Pursuant to the applicable law, those who offer information to the government during its investigation can receive a reward only if the informant provides helpful and original information.
- A whistleblower must reveal their identity to the IRS when making a submission, but they still may deliver the information in secret. The IRS takes certain steps to safeguard the identity of the whistleblower; however, it may be disclosed if the IRS chooses to move forward with the case.
- An IRS whistleblower’s information should be original and not known to the public. However, the standards of the Program are flexible, and whistleblowers may still be rewarded if the information they offer contributes to the public domain. Note that relying on publicly available information in bringing forth a claim may reduce the reward he or she would otherwise be entitled to receive.
- The Program allows non-citizens of the United States to recover awards.
- Reports of any underpayment of taxes must occur within three years of an incorrect tax filing. The limit is extended to six years if the tax return includes a minimum of a 25 percent understatement of income. No time limit applies in cases involving tax fraud
- A whistleblower has the right to appeal the amount of an award in cases when he or she disagrees with the amount offered.
The Commodities Futures Trading Commission Whistleblower Program
2 aware of violations of U.S. commodities laws to come forth and inform the CFTC.
An Overview of the CFTC Whistleblower Program
Individuals who provide credible information on a voluntary basis (i.e., derived from independent knowledge or analysis) to the CFTC regarding violations of the Commodity Exchange Act (CEA) quality to receive CFTC rewards. To be eligible for a reward, over $1 million in monetary sanctions must be obtained by the CFTC due to the information provided by the whistleblower that enhanced or prompted an action for enforcement.
The CFTC does not compel whistleblowers to issue a report of their concerns to their employer or their employer’s internal compliance system prior to offering information to the CFTC. Keep in mind that the CFTC encourages the usage of internal compliance systems, as it considers internal reporting as one of several factors in ascertaining a proper whistleblower reward amount.
The more credible, timely, and specific that a whistleblower’s information is, the more likely that the CFTC will launch an investigation of the matter. Note that whistleblowers must provide supporting documentation to the CFTC to support their claim(s).
To increase one’s odds of receiving a reward, individuals must promptly provide the CFTC with a whistleblower report. When more than one individual reports the same violation, the first individual who reported it is the one who is eligible to receive an award.
Notwithstanding, if more than one individual reports the same violation to the CFTC, the second individual would be entitled to receive a reward if the information that he or she provides substantially helps the CFTC in an ongoing enforcement action or causes the CFTC to re-open a closed case or to seek a different line of inquiry in a current investigation.
Any individual can be a whistleblower, whether they are a competitor, an employee, industry insider, or client. It is important to note that the whistleblower’s place of residence or nationality is of no consequence.
The Consumer Protection Fund of the CFTC, created by Congress, is used to compensate whistleblowers. This fund receives its money from sanctions that are paid to the CFTC by those who violate the CEA. No funds are withdrawn or withheld from customers who have been the victim of wrongdoing
The CFTC program provides whistleblowers from retaliation, offers them rewards, and maintains their anonymity.
The awards for CFTC whistleblowers range from ten to thirty percent of the sanctions obtained by a CFTC enforcement action so long as $1 million or more is collected due to the information that was provided to the commission.
A whistleblower may be entitled to receive an award pursuant to other actions, such as administrative and judicial actions that are brought forth by other governmental entities including the foreign futures associations and the Department of Justice.
The CFTC issues a percentage of the sanctions collected pursuant to a variety of differnt factors, such as the amount that the whistleblower participated in the case. The largest award issued to a whistleblower by the CFTC was $30 million, where his or her original information substantially continued to a successful enforcement action.
The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act
Legislators in the United States created the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, or FCPA, codified at 15 U.S.C. §§ 78dd-1, et seq., as a strategy to combat bribery. The FCPA drafted the anti-bribery provisions to prohibit the promise, authorization, offer, or payment to a foreign official, political party, official with an international organization, or candidate for public office anything of value as a means of retaining or obtaining business. The FCPA also requires detailed and accurate record-keeping, and it also has established the jurisdiction of the United States for bribes that are paid in non-U.S. countries by foreign citizens to government officials from foreign nations. Otherwise stated, the FCPA is a powerful tool given the fact that it extends U.S. jurisdiction to individuals and companies that are located outside of the United States.
The FCPA and Whistleblower Rewards
The Consumer Protection Act and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Act protections were put into place in 2010 to protect whistleblowers who raise claims of FCPA violations. President Obama signed the Act into law, expanding the FCPA’s power to safeguard whistleblowers and fight against corruption.
Accordingly, the updated FCPA includes a comprehensive whistleblower provision. Found at 15 U.S.C. §§ 78m, 78dd, 78ff, this FCPA enables whistleblowers to be rewarded if they offer original information pertaining to bribes paid or offered to officials of foreign governments by U.S. citizens or publicly traded corporations.
Whistleblowers who notify the United States of new, useful, and original information regarding bribes paid by Americans or publicly traded companies to foreign governments are eligible to receive rewards. Under the law, the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) will compensate whistleblowers if they provide information to the federal government that leads to enforcement under the FCPA.
Those who are whistleblowers under the FCPA can be compensated for a financial reward between ten and thirty percent of the sanctions recovered, even if a foreign national serves as a whistleblower in a scenario where a foreign nation is paying the bribe.
Additionally, whistleblowers are able to submit allegations of violations of the FCPA anonymously, which lessens the chances of retaliatory behavior. Keep in mind that the Dodd-Frank Act has an anti-retaliation clause that further protects employees working within the United States who expose violations of the FCPA.
The provisions of the FCPA are specifically geared towards protecting those who are not citizens of the United States. There are confidentiality provisions in the FCPA that allow non-U.S. citizens to be whistleblowers and not have their identity revealed. Effectively, the United States can seek enforcement against violators without those wrongdoers ever learning the identity of the whistleblower who exposed them.
The federal government has been successful in prosecuting several foreign corporations and foreign nationals pursuant to the FCPA. Foreigners and U.S. citizens who served as whistleblowers pursuant to the FCPA have recovered millions of dollars in rewards through the program.
From 2011 to 2018, more than 3,000 whistleblowers from well over one hundred nations have filed allegations under the FCPA reward provision. More than $30 million has been issued to non-U.S. citizens who alerted the federal government of bribe payments completed overseas.
The Role of Whistleblowers Pursuant to the FCPA
Whistleblowers play a large role in continuing to keep entities ethical, honest, and safe. Tips from whistleblowers are the most effective detection methods for the U.S.
Leaders in programs designed to enforce anti-bribery laws and whistleblower provisions and the officials who work directly with whistleblowers hold these individuals in the highest regard. Essentially, whistleblowers are vital to the success of the FCPA.
The Statute of Limitations for Whistleblower Complaints to Federal Agencies
A statute of limitations protects potential defendants because the passage of time makes claims more difficult to defend: Witnesses and evidence can be lost, and if the witnesses can still be located, their memories can fade. Therefore, making someone defend against a legal claim after too much time has passed is unjust. For whistleblowers, this means that you will forever lose your opportunity to pursue a legal claim should you allow the statute of limitations to lapse. You must be acutely aware of the statute of limitations that governs your case, which is one reason to work with a knowledgeable whistleblower law firm.
Most of the statutes listed above specify the statute of limitations. Many have only a 30-day limit for legal claims, while others have 90- or 180-day limits. Some of the laws, like the Dodd-Frank Act, have a three-year statute of limitations, but it can be as long as six years in some situations.
To protect their right to pursue a legal claim, the victim must file a complaint with the agency in charge of investigating whistleblower violations before this time period runs out. The overwhelming majority of the statutes listed above fall within the jurisdiction of OSHA. Whistleblower claims involving securities and stocks should be filed with the Office of Special Counsel or the Merit Systems Protection Board. Complaints may be filed online or mailed to the proper agency; OSHA also allows you to walk into a regional office and make a verbal claim. Most allegations cannot be made anonymously. Once you file a claim with the appropriate agency, that agency will commence an investigation. The Department of Labor then will determine the remedy for you and get you back to work in the position you are entitled to.
However, if the agency fails to act within the specified time frame, which is typically 180 days, or the agency rules against you, then you can appeal to the United States district court that serves your jurisdiction. Additionally, if your employer fails to implement the remedy that the agency ordered, you may bring suit in federal court. Note that you cannot directly file a claim in federal court without first exhausting administrative avenues. If you do not follow the administrative rules, you could end up in violation of the statute of limitations and lose out on a claim forever.
How Can Whistleblower Lawyers Help You?
It’s in your best interest to have competent counsel assisting you because the interplay between state and federal laws in these cases can be very complicated. Filing a complaint with the right agency within the statute of limitations is essential to the viability of your claim, and a good whistleblower lawyer can file a timely claim on your behalf with any of these agencies. However, the first step toward protecting your claim is seeking competent counsel from skilled whistleblower attorneys without delay; it’s important to take action as soon as you discover a possible violation of any whistleblower act or suffer an adverse consequence at work.
Our whistleblower attorneys can also assist you with the necessary preparations before you speak with authorities about the illegal activities in which your employer is engaged. Parker Waichman’s whistleblower attorneys will help you with documenting what has transpired, advise you on how to handle it, guide you on what to say, and help you with the possible fallout. Additionally, Parker Waichman’s seasoned whistleblower attorneys will know where to look for evidence of wrongdoing committed by your employer and, most importantly, where to look for evidence that your employer is taking an adverse action against you because you sought to protect your rights as a conscientious employee.
Why Choose Parker Waichman to Help With Your Whistleblower Actions?
Our law firm has built a sterling reputation on decades of successful whistleblowing actions as well as personal injury cases of all kinds. But you don’t need to take our word for it. The legal community has spoken, honoring us with many distinctions:
- 8 (out of a perfect 10) rating by AVVO, a service that rates every attorney in the United States
- “AV Preeminent” peer review rating by Martindale-Hubbell, a company that has rated attorneys across the United States and the world for more than 100 years based on feedback from judges and peers
- Highest rating of “5 Dragons” based on peer review by Lawdragon
- Listing in Best Lawyers, determined by extensive peer review
Is There a Whistleblower Attorney Near Me?
Yes. Parker Waichman is a national whistleblower legal firm with offices in New York, New Jersey, and Florida, and we can provide an experienced whistleblower attorney near you.
Talk With One of Our Whistleblower Lawyers Today
Contact our qui tam law firm today to learn more about how we can protect your rights as an employee if you have blown the whistle on your employer’s unlawful practices. Our whistleblower lawyers aggressively pursue employers who take adverse employment action against conscientious employees, and we stand ready to assist you. Just contact us by filling out our online form or calling 1-800-YOUR-LAWYER (1-800-968-7529) if your employer has violated your rights. We’ll give you a free, no-obligation consultation to help you evaluate your next move and seek justice.
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