Being terminated from a job is never a pleasant experience, even when the work environment is toxic. Termination from a professional management position can have severe repercussions, depending on the reasons for the termination. The current political impetus being placed on workplace whistleblowing is a unique situation.
Retaliation by termination for whistleblowing, or providing material evidence to a government investigation, is deemed illegal by federal law. But, the government agencies are not always as receptive to the information as the whistleblower may expect, and the employer will often terminate the employment relationship regardless of the law.
1. Prepare for the Long-Term and Do Not Despair
Whistleblowers may have a very difficult time finding subsequent employment if they are in an industry which utilizes unscrupulous business practices in everyday operations. There is a skeleton in the closet for practically every business. It is important to update your resume immediately and prepare a defense for why you were terminated if it is a direct result of providing information to the government.
2. Do Not Speak Ill of the Previous Employer
This is an important part of the process. Be succinct about the dispute; and in the interim, demonstrate all of the most positive attributes of your profession. Being caught in the middle of illegal activity which could leave an employee legally culpable is a solid reason for acting in self-preservation. Contrary to popular belief in many companies, morality is still a virtue and a desired characteristic in a professional employee.
3. Hire an Attorney Immediately
It is always a bad idea to report information directly to a government agency without first seeking legal representation. Your best choice will be an experienced and effective legal team like the firm at . Ideally, to ensure your ability to claim the financial award for providing information, an attorney presents a qui tam application for a closed hearing before the information is delivered.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) can then assign whistleblower protection and legal standing to sue with the proper government agency as an et al co-plaintiff and oversight investigative agency. Be forewarned, this is not a guarantee, so diligently attempt to maintain anonymity. In cases where legal representation is not retained beforehand, there can still be an application hearing process during the investigation, and notification of the DOJ that there are illegalities in the system.
4. Consider Filing a State Court Civil Action
The Whistleblower Act and the False Claims Act both will apply in any legal claim against a prior employer. The material evidence in the case is reviewed according to a preponderance of that evidence, and a winning lawsuit at state court level can also be part-and-parcel to a subsequent whistleblower protection application and additional financial claim. There is always the potential for multiple cases because of coercion and harassment at work before the termination. Always use the court system to your maximum advantage, as any attorney will advise.
The decision to provide information to the government regarding fraud is very serious. It is always a good idea to get legal advice first and do some research on the process. But, when the act is already committed, there is still a recourse for the whistleblower. It is best to do this legally and get an experienced whistleblower attorney.