Whistleblowers in New Jersey are those people willing to report a company, organization, or wrongdoing by violating laws, rules, or regulations that affect the public conscious and safety. In other words, a whistleblower sees something wrong at work, refuses to participate, and is willing to report it and even testify against it to make sure the company does not get away with breaking the law and harming people. It is essential to keep an open line of communication for whistleblowers to feel comfortable coming forward. As a result, it is illegal to retaliate against a whistleblower. For the past 25 years, the experienced attorneys at the Derek Smith Law Group has worked to help whistleblowers obtain the justice they deserve.
A whistleblower in New Jersey is anyone that “blows the whistle” against a company or business who is violating the laws and regulations that protect the government from fraud and individuals from acts that are dangerous or affect public health and safety. “blowing the whistle” simply means the person has reported the wrongdoing or illegal activity to a party that can act on the information, has refused to participate in the illegal activities, and/or is willing and does testify against he employer or even a co-worker in court. The whistleblower, as a result of his or her necessary contribution to protecting the public, is protected from retaliation from the employer.
Whistleblowers need attorneys for three different reasons. First, a whistleblower may wish to consult an attorney when he or she discovers the illegal activity and wishes to make a claim. The attorney can help the whistleblower through the process to make sure they follow the statute of limitations and have everything properly in place to file the claim appropriately.
Once the claim has been filed, the whistleblower may need an attorney to help with a qui tam action. A qui tam action is when the whistleblower files the lawsuit in the courts as the plaintiff against the wrongdoer. As a result, the whistleblower is now working on behalf of the state or federal government, since he or she knows the details as the witness to the actions. The whistleblower attorney will guide the whistleblower and help make sure he or she is properly represented to complete the claim and receive the compensation he or she deserves.
Finally, if the whistleblower is fired, demoted, withheld pay, receives a reduction in pay, suspended, or receives any other retaliatory actions from the employer, the whistleblower attorney can help file a claim for retaliation in the courts and get the whistleblower the compensation he deserves.
The federal government and the State of New Jersey have several laws in place to protect whistleblowers from retaliation and provide compensation through qui tam actions. Some of the laws include:
- The Federal False Claims Act. This act is related to qui tam actions. Under this act, whistleblowers can sue the business or corporation for illegal activity in place of the federal government. As a result, the whistleblower is entitled to 25% – 30% of the money recovered as a result of the lawsuit.
- The New Jersey False Claims Act. Like the federal act, this act relates to qui tam actions filed on behalf of the New Jersey government. Under this law, the whistleblower may receive 15% to 25% of the money recovered as well as up to 3 times the actual harm to the state.
- Dodd-Frank Act. The Dodd-Frank Act was enacted in 2010 and is intended to protect whistleblowers in the financial community when reporting financial fraud.
- Sarbanes-Oxley. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act was enacted in 2002 and is also intended to protect whistleblowers in the financial sector when reporting financial fraud.
- New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act. Under this law, the employee who discovers acts of illegal activity must first bring this information to his or her supervisor in writing and provide the employer with a “reasonable opportunity” to correct the problem. If this has been done and nothing changes, the employee is then protected from retaliation when he brings the claim to a public body, such as the New Jersey Department of justice, health inspector, or whoever handles such issues relating to the claim.
Whistleblower actions in New Jersey relate to illegal activities or anything that puts the public health and safety at risk. Some examples of whistleblower actions in New Jersey include:
- Fraudulent billing practices
- Filing false claims
- Tax fraud
- Misclassification of federal contractors
- Refusal to abide by OSHA laws
- Receiving kickbacks that are otherwise against the law
- Medicare or Medicaid fraud
- Overcharging the government for defense contracts
- Misappropriation of funds
- A system of falsely obtaining approval on government bids
- Conspiracy to defraud the government
- Obstructing an investigation
- Failure to abide by commercial transport laws.
Under the Federal False Claims Act and New Jersey False Claims Act, a person has 60 days from the date of the illegal activity to file a claim with the Department of Justice regarding the actions.
New Jersey’s Conscientious Employee Protection Act insists employee must first report the incident to his or her supervisor in writing and provide a reasonable time limit for the supervisor to take action unless he has reason to believe the employer or supervisor already is aware of the violations. If that does not occur, the employee has one year to file the claim with the appropriate public agency.
The Sarbanes-Oxley Act allows a time-limit of 180 days to file a claim for retaliation. And the Dodd-Frank Act allows a whistleblower 6 to 10 years to file a whistleblower claim and 3 years to file a complaint about retaliation.
Qui Tam actions occur when the federal or state department of justice does not wish to join the whistleblower action with you and that means you handle the entire process on your own. Because you are working as a spokesperson for the DOJ, you are entitled to certain remedies not available to whistleblowers not controlling the case. Under federal law, you are entitled to 25%-30% of the money recovered by the government. Under New Jersey laws, you are entitled to 15%-25% of the money as well as 3-times the stolen money per claim.
If you are a victim of whistleblower retaliation, the following remedies would be available through the courts in New Jersey:
- Reinstatement of employment and benefits
- Reimbursement of benefit premiums
- Reimbursement of medical and other related costs
- Back pay
- Future pay
- Attorney’s fees
- Termination of the person responsible for retaliation
- Pain and Suffering
- Emotional Distress
- Punitive Damages
If you are considering blowing the whistle or are experiencing retaliation as a result of being a whistleblower, here are a few things you can do while you work on your case:
- Retain a whistleblower attorney in New Jersey immediately.
- If you are still employed, do not quit your job.
- Contact HR and report any retaliatory measures taken by your employer.
- Collect evidence. Document every incident, when it occurred, who was involved, and any witnesses.
- Collect documents, text messages, emails, and any other proof of your claim.
Whistleblowers in New Jersey are an essential piece to preventing corruption in government and business. Without protections in place, many whistleblowers would not come forward and provide this valuable information. If you are a whistleblower and/or have experienced retaliation as a result, the experienced attorneys at the Derek Smith Law Group can help. Contact us today at (973) 388-8625 for a free consultation. We do not collect any money until you win your case.