If you believe your employer has broken the law, you have a variety of legal rights. If you have been terminated from your job or disciplined because you reported your employer’s illegal actions, condition or safety violation at work, you could qualify as a whistleblower and have a claim for an illegal discharge. If your employer is illegally taking money from the federal government, you could also have the right to file a qui tam claim. Whistleblower claims and qui tam actions both involve employees’ telling authorities of an employer’s wrongdoing, but the two kinds of civil actions are very different.
Qui tam cases involve civil lawsuits that help the federal government stop fraud. Qui tam claims are lawsuits initiated by private individuals under the federal False Claims Act against anyone filing a fraudulent claim for payment from the U.S. government. Because so many government programs are administered through private companies, the opportunity for fraud by persons dealing with the government is always present, and in some industries, is even fairly common.
In a qui tam claim, if a person alerts the government about an employer who is cheating, the whistleblower may be entitled to a percentage or the recovery of the penalty as a reward for exposing the conduct. If successful, the plaintiff receives a portion of the money that the government recovers from the dishonest employer.
Qui tam plaintiffs are entitled to a percentage of the federal government’s recovery. The percentage depends on whether the government decides to join in on the case. If the government does join in on the case, the recovery is between 15 and 25 percent, and 25 to 30 percent if the government declines to intervene. The amount of the award depends on several factors, including the work of the whistleblower’s attorney and the quality of the case presented to the Justice Department. Some common types of fraud include fraud on government projects, Medicaid and Medicare fraud, and fraud involving defense contractors.
It is important to act quickly if you think you have a qui tam case. Your lawsuit could be dismissed if someone else makes the allegations public. It’s important to keep the details of the case private – if the public finds out about the case, it could be dismissed or seriously damaged. Your attorney should also be chosen very carefully.
Qui tam lawsuits can be very time consuming and expensive. However, for those who can’t afford to pay the attorneys’ fees and costs connected with such lawsuits, Liberty Law offers a contingency fee arrangement. Contingency fees are paid to the attorney in the form of a percentage of the award, if the case is successful.
Contingency fees provide a powerful motivation to attorneys to work diligently on the client’s case. If clients pay the attorney per hour for their time, it makes little economic difference to the attorney whether the client has a successful outcome to the litigation. Because lawyers assume the financial risk of litigation in a contingency fee case, the number of speculative or unmeritorious cases may be reduced.
At Liberty Law, Micha Star Liberty believes in the rights of whisteblowers, and that they should be compensated for their actions. At Liberty Law Office, we can help guide you through the complex process of filing a qui tam claim. We can also protect you from any retaliation by your employer.
Micha Star Liberty represents clients throughout the San Francisco Bay – Oakland area, including Fairfield, Tracy, Hayward, Berkeley, and the surrounding cities. Contact the California qui tam attorneys at Liberty Law Office at 510-645-1000 or 415-896-1000 for more information about our ability to represent you in either or both forms of litigation.