How To File A Whistleblower Complaint

How To File A Whistleblower Complaint

This is how to file a whistleblower complaint. It involves five steps:

  1. Identify what kind of violation you are reporting. For example, a whistleblower might report fraud, a safety violation, or patient neglect.
  2. Determine whether your report should be made in the form of a lawsuit (such as a qui tam case) or whether you must report the violation immediately to a particular government agency (such as reporting a safety risk to OSHA).
  3. Research whether a statute or regulation will protect you from retaliation by your employer or contractor.
  4. Keep detailed notes and compile documents that can be used as evidence with your report.
  5. Contact an attorney other than your employer’s. Often, independent attorney consultations are free and will be kept confidential.

Whistleblowers play a crucial role in ensuring that organizations adhere to laws and regulations. By exposing fraud, safety violations, or other misconduct, they help protect the public, safeguard resources, and promote accountability. Understanding the types of violations whistleblowers report, the agencies involved, the protections available, and the potential rewards can help you navigate the process of filing a complaint. In 2023, whistleblowers and their attorneys recovered more than $2 Billion for the federal government.

Types of Violations

Whistleblowers may report various types of violations. Commonly reported issues include:

  • Fraud: This could involve financial misconduct, such as embezzlement, misallocation of resources, accounting fraud, or fraudulent billing practices.
  • Safety Violations: These might include unsafe working conditions, failure to comply with safety regulations, or exposing employees or the public to health risks.
  • Patient Neglect or Abuse: In healthcare settings, whistleblowers may report substandard care, neglect, or abuse of patients, particularly in federally-funded institutions.
  • Environmental Violations: Reporting illegal dumping, pollution, or other environmental hazards.

Government Agencies Involved

Some of the most common agencies involved in whistleblower investigations are:

  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA): For workplace safety violations.
  • Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC): For violations related to securities laws, such as insider trading or accounting fraud.
  • Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS): For healthcare-related violations, including patient neglect or fraud in Medicare and Medicaid.
  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): For environmental violations.
  • Department of Justice (DOJ): For broader cases of fraud against the government, often involving qui tam lawsuits under the False Claims Act.
  • The United States Army, Navy, Air Force, and Corps of Engineers: for military contractor fraud.

Statutes Protecting Against Retaliation

Several statutes and regulations offer protection to whistleblowers to prevent retaliation from employers:

  • Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA): Protects federal employees who disclose information on illegal activities or violations of public health and safety.
  • Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX): Provides protections for employees of publicly traded companies who report fraudulent activities.
  • False Claims Act (FCA): Includes provisions that protect whistleblowers (also known as relators) from retaliation from their employers and some contractors.
  • Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act: Offers protections and rewards for whistleblowers who report violations related to securities laws.

Awards for Whistleblowers

In addition to protections, whistleblowers may be eligible for financial rewards. These rewards serve as an incentive for individuals to come forward with valuable information:

  • False Claims Act: Whistleblowers who file a qui tam lawsuit can receive a portion of the recovered damages, typically ranging from 15% to 30%.
  • SEC Whistleblower Program: Provides monetary awards to individuals who offer original information that leads to successful enforcement actions, with awards ranging from 10% to 30% of the monetary sanctions collected.
  • IRS Whistleblower Program: Offers rewards to individuals who provide information on tax fraud or underpayment, with potential awards ranging from 15% to 30% of the amount recovered.

Conclusion

Filing a whistleblower complaint is a serious and often complex process, but understanding the types of violations, relevant government agencies, legal protections, and potential rewards can empower you to take the necessary steps. Ensuring you have detailed documentation and seeking independent legal advice can further strengthen your position and safeguard your rights throughout the process.

Contact an experienced attorney at Price Armstrong for a free and confidential consultation.