No matter where you’re employed, you expect your employer or company to conduct business in a legal manner. In the event you notice misconduct or illegal activity, you have the right to report the information to the appropriate agencies. Unfortunately, many employees who file those types of reports face retaliation. If you find yourself in a situation like that, a Charleston whistleblower lawyer can help.
DiPiero Simmons McGinley & Bastress, PLLC is dedicated to protecting the rights of workers in West Virginia. In particular, we are committed to ensuring workers are free from discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. We recognize that employers who are already committing fraudulent activities could try to retaliate against any employee who wishes to hold them accountable. That’s why we’re here to represent those employees and ensure their rights as American citizens are upheld.
Understanding Who or What a Whistleblower Is
You’ve probably heard the term whistleblower in the news. It’s often associated with scandals and illegal activity in the workplace. In reality, any employee could be put in a place where they witness illegal activity on behalf of their employer. If that happens and that individual exposes the information to government agencies, they are considered a whistleblower.
Career professionals who become whistleblowers may witness their employer violating laws that were put into place to protect employees, the environment, or the general public. There is a risk associated with being a whistleblower, which is why it takes great personal courage to hire a lawyer and provide information about the illegal activity.
Some of the most common types of fraudulent activities that whistleblowers report include the following:
- Falsifying reports
- Overcharging the government for products or services
- Charging for products or services not provided, requested, or needed
- Securing contract by means of bribes, misrepresentation, or kickbacks
- Providing defective, mislabeled, or different products or services that previously agreed upon
- Medical coding violations
- Medicare or Medicaid billing fraud
If your complaint falls into a different category, your Charleston lawyer will be able to give you an idea if you have a claim to pursue. Valid whistleblower claims are taken seriously. A thorough investigation is conducted and, depending on the situation, the lawsuit could go to trial. Regardless of what happens, whistleblowers in the United States are protected from the following:
- Harassment and intimidation
- Being fired or laid off
- Reduces wages and hours
- Reassignment or demotion
- Denial of benefits and overtime.
If your employer retaliates against you after you’ve disclosed information regarding illegal activity to the appropriate authorities, there is further legal action you can take. Pursuing a claim successfully means understanding the laws that protect you.
Laws That Protect Whistleblowers in West Virginia
If you know your company is engaging in illegal activities and you’re hesitant to come forward because you are uncertain what it could mean for your future, it’s important to know that there are state laws in place to protect you. Known as the whistleblower law, Article 1 of Chapter 6C of the West Virginia Code prohibits discrimination and retaliation by employers against an employee who makes a good faith report of wrongdoing or waste to an appropriate authority.
In addition to the state law, the federal Occupational Health and Safety Act also prohibits employment retaliation against employees who report violations. In the event an employer does not appropriately respond to whistleblower complaints, the employer could face legal liability under both state and federal law.
It’s important to understand that whistleblower lawsuits benefit the government, the reporting employee, and society. If you believe you have information for a potential lawsuit, you could receive financial compensation for bringing that information forward. The government shares financial awards with whistleblowers because eliminating fraud helps to keep taxes down for all taxpayers.
Pursuing a Whistleblower Lawsuit
If you plan to file a whistleblower lawsuit, it’s important to do so in a timely manner. Only the first person who files the claim will be considered by the Department of Justice and eligible for financial compensation. All whistleblower lawsuits are placed under seal, which means the case is confidential and information is not available to the public or media.
As a whistleblower, there are certain responsibilities you have to take care of and adhere to. First, you are not allowed to discuss your case with anyone except your Charleston attorney. The information you provide is classified as privileged and confidential, except when it’s needed to achieve closure of the lawsuit. This means that what you provide if not subject to disclosure by civil discovery, under the Freedom of Information Act, or by other legal processes.
Once the case’s evidence is reviewed, the seal will be lifted, and details of the lawsuit will be made public. During the investigation period, you are protected by confidentiality provisions. Your lawyer will explain the timeframes involved and how to make the best decisions for your case.
Learn About Your Legal Options in Charleston
At DiPiero Simmons McGinley & Bastress, PLLC, we recognize the courage it takes to report fraud and other illegal activities in the workplace—especially where there is the threat of intimidation, retaliation, and unneeded stress. That’s why a Charleston whistleblower from our firm is prepared to help you navigate this complicated process and ensure that your legal rights are upheld the entire time.
To learn more about the protections afforded to whistleblowers or what you can do if your employer has retaliated against you, schedule a consultation with our firm today. We’ll review your situation and determine how best to proceed based on your unique circumstances.