Federal government employees are often in an excellent position to know about waste, fraud and abuse in government programs and to quietly inform others of what they know in order to punish wrongdoing, spur change and save the government vast sums of money. When they inform Congress, for example, about potentially illegal or wasteful practices in their agencies, federal employees are acting as whistleblowers – and they are protected under their own whistleblower statutes.
False Claims Act
Some basic considerations when thinking of reporting health care fraud
Most employees never imagine reporting their employers. No one takes a job with their sights set on clandestinely gathering evidence for a government health care fraud investigation. But, anyone working in the health care field long enough knows that fraud is still rampant and it sometimes causes real patient harm. So, how does a loyal employee turn whistleblower, and what should you do if you find yourself in this position?
Jeffrey Mills was the Director of Food and Nutritional Services for the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) from 2010 to 2013. DCPS used Chartwells, a contractor, to provide its food and food services for students in DCPS. Mills saw enormous problems with Chartwells, including overbilling and, even worse, providing spoiled food to students. His complaints to DCPS officials were ignored. And when DCPS terminated his employment, he alleged that he was terminated in retaliation for blowing the whistle on Chartwells. Mills sued not only for retaliation but also for fraud against the D.C. government, under the qui tam provisions of the District of Columbia False Claims Act. D.C. Code Ann § 2-381.03. Chartwells settled with Mills for $450,000.00 for his retaliation claim, and settled with D.C. for $19,000,000.00, 30% of which could go to Mills, and the rest to D.C. to compensate it for the overbilling and spoiled food. https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/dc-schools-food-vendor-pays-19-million-to-settle-whistleblower-lawsuit/2015/06/05/bae8dd3c-0b96-11e5-9e39-0db921c47b93_story.html.
How Abraham Lincoln and Outside-the-Box Thinking Can Help Unions Stop Government Contractor Wage Theft
To secure to each labourer the whole product of his labour, or as nearly as possible, is a most worthy object of any good government.
Abraham Lincoln, 1847
President Lincoln rightly believed that workers should get paid what they earn. But as many of us know, stealing money from workers on government contracts by underpaying them below the prevailing wage is often the industry standard.
When unions and their members learn of prevailing wage theft, in response, one of two well-intentioned but futile actions usually are taken. They start a very public protest campaign – either in the newspapers or by physically protesting at the jobsite/headquarters of the offending company. Or, they file a complaint with the Department of Labor. Most times, neither action works. Trying to shame a shameless employer who didn’t pay people properly in the first place does not work. And, in this government-shutdown, low-morale, underfunded era, the Department of Labor’s resources are so strapped that it often can’t force the bad actors in to compliance.
"Death of the fraudster" by Georg Auer Hohensalzburg
Are you a Marylander?
Do you want your hard earned tax money going to companies who are defrauding the Maryland state government?
On October 15, 2013, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit issued a False Claims Act ("FCA") judgment allowing the case to continue against Bayer Healthcare Pharmaceuticals ("Bayer"), based on the relator’s allegations that the company fraudulently induced the Department of Defense ("DoD") to enter contracts under which a drug known as Baycol was purchased for the use of armed service men and women.
Kathy: Jeremy, I know a large part of your practice involves whistleblower law. Do you have any thoughts or advice to pass along on this topic to our readers?
Retaliation Claims Under the False Claims Act: “But For” or “Mixed Motive” Causation Standard? How to Prove Illegal Retaliation For Reporting Fraud on Government Contracts.
This past term, the Supreme Court in University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar held that retaliation claims under Title VII are required to be decided by what is known as the “But For” causation standard. So, if an employee reports illegal discrimination or harassment based on race, sex, or other Title VII protected conduct and suffers retaliation, the Supreme Court held that the employee must show that “but for” engaging in protected activity (reporting the illegal conduct), the employee would not have suffered the adverse action (such as termination).
Kathy: Every year brings new legislation that impacts American employers and employees. Are there any game-changing laws that have been passed or that are on the horizon for 2013?
Two Laws That Work Well Together – The False Claims Act (FCA) and the Wartime Suspension of Limitations Act (WSLA)
The False Claims Act (FCA), originally conceived by Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War, has been an effective tool for the Government to recover funds fraudulently taken from all types of government programs from national security to Medicare for over a century and a half. But like all statutes, the FCA has its limitations, including time. Until recently, it was believed that with little exception fraudulently taken taxpayer funds could be recovered only for a period of six years prior to the filing of a complaint. 31 U.S.C. § 3731(b).
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