Finding out that your employer is doing something they should not be doing – it puts an employee in a very tough spot. Should they report it? Become a whistleblower? Put their job and livelihood on the line? These are difficult questions to answer for anyone, but knowing a bit more about your options can make the decision easier.
What is a qui tam action?
A qui tam action is when a private citizen – in this case, an employee – brings a lawsuit against their employer not for themselves, but on behalf of the government. The federal False Claims Act grants an employee the right to bring such an action when the employee has evidence that the employer is in some way defrauding the government. In some cases, when the qui tam action has been filed, the government may join in the lawsuit. Other times, it may choose to let the employee pursue it on their own. Depending on how the government reacts, the employee stands to be awarded between 15% and 30% of any amount collected as a result of the suit.
There are a variety of actions a company can take which would violate the False Claims Act and give rise to a qui tam action. Overcharging the government or otherwise defrauding it with respect to charges is one example. Submitting a false application for government loans or grants would also run afoul of the Act. Falsely certifying that the company has complied with contractual requirements or regulations is another. There are many ways a company can violate the Act and these examples are not exclusive.
Choosing to file a qui tam action and become a whistleblower is a difficult decision. Additionally, the process itself is complex and there are many requirements which must be met. If it is an avenue you are considering exploring, seek the assistance of an experienced professional to help you navigate this complicated area of the law.