What are my rights if I blow the Whistle on Illegal Activity?
A whistleblower has different options for recourse when illegal activity is taking place. For example, if an employee is terminated after reporting illegal activity then this falls into retaliating against an employee for reporting illegal conduct. Under Montana law, an employee who is terminated for blowing the whistle may be entitled to four years’ worth of wages and benefits PLUS punitive damages. This is the only situation under Montana law which allows a wrongfully terminated employee to recover damages over and above four years worth of wages and benefits. Montana’s Wrongful Discharge from Employment Act specifically allows the recovery of punitive damages if the termination is in retaliation for reporting a violation of public policy.
Qui Tam Lawsuits
The other scenario involves what falls under a federal statute, the False Claims Act. These types of claims are also referred to as Qui Tam cases. In this situation, a whistleblower can report illegal activity in which the federal government is being defrauded, and potentially recover as much of 25% of any amount paid to the federal government in damages. Medicare fraud is a popular example. If a corporation is filing claims in which the government is being duped into paying a false claim, a person who reports this activity to federal authorities can in turn recover a portion of the damages if the corporation or person making the false claim is found to be liable. For instance, the State of Montana was just paid by KMart Corporation as part of a Qui Tam lawsuit in which Kmart submitted false claims and false statements through KMart Pharmacy Center’s actions in billing government health care programs for all drugs included in a prescription when, for many prescriptions, it dispensed only a portion of the prescribed drugs. This conduct resulted in a $2.5 million settlement in which Kmart agreed to pay numerous states in damages for its conduct.
If you have been terminated for reporting illegal activity, or, alternatively, if you are aware of illegal activity in which false claims are being made to any government program, you should contact an attorney with experience in this area of the law.