Bert Louthian, a Columbia attorney who handles whistleblower cases, today expressed his dismay at a new survey that says employees who report misconduct are facing increased retaliation for doing so.
“Besides the fact that these courageous people are suffering abuse for pointing out corruption and fraud, we are particularly discouraged by the Ethics Resource Center’s conclusion that this problem of retaliation is likely to grow,” said Louthian, a South Carolina False Claims Act attorney and a partner at the Louthian Law Firm, P.A., in Columbia.
“We want workers in South Carolina and elsewhere to understand that they are legally protected when they report fraud and other misconduct in business. But in order to reap the benefits of the law’s protection, they often need the assistance of a law firm that employs experienced False Claims Act attorneys,” he said.
The Ethics Resource Center (ERC) released its biannual National Business Ethics Survey earlier this month. According to the survey’s results, the misconduct U.S. workers had witnessed fell to a historic low, although “retaliation against employee whistleblowers rose sharply..
The survey found that 22 percent of those who reported bad behavior – some 9 million Americans – said they experienced some form of retaliation, up from 15 percent in the 2009 survey and only 12 percent in 2007.
“Most of the retaliation was passive, such as being excluded from decisions and work activity by a supervisor or being given a cold shoulder by peers,” the Wall Street Journal reported. “But 44 percent said they were reassigned, one third of employees said they were demoted and 31 percent said they experienced physical harm to themselves or their property..
“As the economy gets better – and companies and employees become more optimistic about their financial futures – it seems likely that misconduct will rise and reporting will drop, mirroring the growth in pressure and retaliation that have already taken place,” the ERC said in its key findings.
The False Claims Act, known as the “whistleblower law,” is meant to protect workers who report fraudulent activity pertaining to government funds. The law provides the means for individuals to file lawsuits on behalf of government agencies being defrauded, which are known as “qui tam claims.” Whistleblowers may collect 15 to 30 percent of any money recovered in a successful lawsuit.
A whistleblower lawsuit typically pertains to tax fraud, health care fraud (such as false Medicaid or Medicare claims), Social Security fraud or corporate fraud that involves overbilling the government or submitting false information to regulatory agencies, Louthian said.
“The complexity and intimidation factors involved in a qui tam lawsuit are why a whistleblower should contact an experienced False Claims Act attorney before moving forward,” Louthian said.
“A lawyer can advise a worker and assist them in collecting documentation of their claim. Then, should retaliation come, they will not be alone; their attorney will stand beside them every step of the way..