Whistleblowers in Philadelphia are protected from retaliation and discrimination by law. Once a whistleblower invokes these protections, it is illegal to retaliate against him or her, or even learn his or her identity if the whistleblower chooses to remain anonymous. The purpose of these laws is to provide a path to those holding valuable information about a company or employer to feel protected while giving that information to the proper authorities or entities. It ensures that no company or employer is above the law under any circumstances. The experienced attorneys at the Derek Smith Law Group have spent more than 25 years helping whistleblowers maintain their legal protections and receive compensation if those protections are violated.
Whistleblower laws in Philadelphia are very unique. Pennsylvania’s whistleblower laws apply only to two types of employees: (1) those employed by a public company or (2) those employed by a private company that gets funding of any type from the federal or state government. According to the Pennsylvania Whistleblower Law, Act of Dec. 12, 1986, P.L. 1559, No. 169, a whistleblower is employed by a public sector company or a private sector company that is funded at least in part by federal or state money and reports wrongdoing conducted by any member of the company or the company itself to his or her supervisor or someone who can act on the information. There key points to being known as a whistleblower and entitled to the protection of a whistleblower include:
- Being employed by a public company or a private company receiving money from the state or federal government.
- Reports wrongdoing by a member of the company or the company itself.
- Reports the wrongdoing to a person or entity that can act upon the reported information.
In Pennsylvania, a whistleblower attorney has two roles: (1) to help you protect yourself when you are ready to report your employer for fraudulent behavior and (2) help you bring suit against an employer who has retaliated against you by terminating your employment or other retaliation because you reported the wrongdoings. Derek Smith Law Group handles Pennsylvania whistleblower claims with finesse and care to help you navigate the legal system and fight for your rights during this already difficult time.
The most prominent law that protects Whistleblowers in Pennsylvania is the Whistleblower Protection Law, also known as the Act of 1986. This law makes it illegal for employers to retaliate against employees who report covered actions to a supervisor, a person that can act upon complaints on behalf of the company or governing agency.
Philadelphia also has its own law to protect whistleblowers, known as the Philadelphia False Claims Act. This law allows Philadelphia employees to report claims to the Philadelphia City Solicitor. The Solicitor will investigate the claim and then can designate the whistleblower to file a qui tam action on behalf of the city. Under a Qui Tam Action, the whistleblower is entitled to receive between 15% and 30% of the funds recovered by their claim and resulting lawsuit.
Federally, two laws protect Whistleblowers:
- The Dodd-Frank Act. This act was enacted in 2010 and is specific to the financial community and protects employees reporting financial fraud within the financial sector.
- The Sarbanes-Oxley Act. This act was enacted in 2002. It also applies to the financial industry and helps prevent fraud. It gives protection to any employee who reports a financial institution employer of fraudulent activity.
Whistleblower actions include reporting a company or supervisor for wrongdoings relating to:
- Government funding
- Misappropriation of funds
- Fraudulent activity
- OSHA violations
- Clean Air and Clean Water Act violations
Discrimination against a whistleblower can include:
- Wrongful termination
- Decrease in pay
- Additional workload without compensation
- Denial of days off
- Increased hostility
- Retaliation for refusing to break the law for the employer
- Unwarranted layoff
Even though a whistleblower must be employed by a company that is either a government entity or has a portion of funding come from the federal or state government, the types of fraud involved are vast. There are numerous types of fraud that constitutes a whistleblower case in Pennsylvania. Below is a sampling of frauds by Philadelphia and Pennsylvania whistleblower cases:
- Medicare and Medicaid Fraud
Committing fraud related to Medicaid or Medicare is covered under the Pennsylvania Whistleblower Law. Medicare and Medicaid are government health care. Therefore, any organization that accepts these forms of payment are collecting and therefore partially funded by a government entity. This is also part of the False Claims Act or a Qui Tam action. If you work for a company that is active or has committed Medicaid or Medicare fraud, you may have a whistleblower case.
- Contractor Claims
This is another example of a Qui Tam action. If a contractor misuses funds or files false invoices, they are committing a false claims violation. Reporting this company may be cause for a whistleblower claim.
- Environmental Fraud
Environmental fraud is a thing. If an employer is violating an environmental statute and is a government-owned company or partially funded by a government-owned company, any retaliation against the person reporting the fraud would be covered under the whistleblower protection act.
- Mail Fraud
There are many reasons mail fraud is a problem. A person is not even allowed to put items in a mailbox that is not mail. If you report your company committing mail fraud, you may have a whistleblower action.
- Federal Student Loan Fraud
This is another item covered under the False Claims Act. Misappropriating federal student loan funds or falsely collecting federal student loan funds for an unaccredited institution can lead to a whistleblower action that could be protected under the Whistleblower Protection Law.
- Social Security Fraud
Social Security fraud is also known as SSRI fraud. This type of fraud is when social security funds are falsely obtained or misappropriated. This is another example of a Qui Tam Action and can be covered under whistleblower protection.
- US Customs Fraud
Attempting to illegal get items through US customs without paying proper taxes would be an example of US customs fraud. An employee who exposes a company’s attempt at US customs fraud may have a whistleblower action.
Under federal laws, a whistleblower is given a time limit of 180 days from the date of the retaliation or other unfair treatment to file a claim. Pennsylvania law also provides 180 days to file a claim for retaliation to whistleblower actions.
Retaliation against a whistleblower provides several remedies under federal and state laws. Since 2018, the laws have changed to allow damages that are not solely based on economic factors, such as:
- Reinstatement of employment and benefits
- Termination of a person committing retaliation
- Back pay
- Future pay
- Attorney’s fees
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Reimbursement of medical and other related expenses
- Punitive damages
As you know, whistleblowers are a necessity to help keep the world honest. Employers of all kinds and with all intentions can turn to fraudulent activities in desperate times. However, being a whistleblower has its costs and can be quite challenging. Here are a few helpful hints to help you prepare for the worst before you decide to blow the whistle:
- Hire a whistleblower attorney immediately.
- Once you blow the whistle on your employer, stay employed for as long as they will have you. If you voluntarily quit, you will weaken your compensation because you chose to leave the company.
- Document everything. While in Pennsylvania you cannot record your conversations without all parties knowing you are doing so, you can take notes and make copies of documents, emails, and any evidence you can find.
- Be smart with your copies, notes, and documents. Make sure to keep them in a secured place, preferable off-location, such as a bank safe deposit box or a locked drawer in your home.
- Do not waste time. Make sure you immediately report your findings to the proper channels, which will include supervisors, governing agencies, and your attorney.
- Be careful with whom you speak. Unfortunately, not everyone will have your best interests in mind and may put you in danger, even unintentionally.
Whistleblower protections are the backbone of keeping companies honest. Without protecting our whistleblowers, companies can misuse government money and never see justice. It is our job to protect our whistleblowers to keep them willing to bring wrongdoing to the proper authorities. If you are the victim of whistleblower discrimination or retaliation, Derek Smith Law Group can help. Contact us today at (215) 391-4790 for your free consultation. We do not collect money until you win your case.