Philadelphia Whistleblower Lawyers
At Sidkoff, Pincus & Green, our attorneys routinely represent whistleblowers. We have represented clients in whistleblower claims under Pennsylvania and New Jersey state law, and under federal statutes enforced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”). In addition, we are regularly involved in qui tam actions.
What is a Qui Tam Action?
The False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. Section 3729 et seq., allows private individuals to bring a qui tam action against another who had defrauded the federal government by knowingly presenting a false claim for payment.
- A Qui Tam action is initiated by a relator who files a complaint under seal in federal district court.
- A qui tam lawyer, on behalf of the relator, brings the action on behalf of the government.
- The government has the right to intervene and join the action; if the government declines, the private plaintiff may proceed on his or her own.
- If successful, the relator will share an award with the government – a minimum of 15 percent and a maximum of 25 percent if the government intervenes.
- Under Section 3730(h) of the False Claims Act, any employee who is discharged, demoted, harassed, or otherwise discriminated against because of lawful acts by the employee in furtherance of an action under the Act is entitled to all relief necessary to make the employee whole.
What type of actions are covered under the Pennsylvania Whistleblower Law?
Under the Pennsylvania Whistleblower Law, 43 P.S. § 1421, et seq., an employer covered by the law may not discharge, threaten or otherwise discriminate or retaliate against an employee regarding the employee’s compensation, terms, conditions, location or privileges of employment because the employee or a person acting on behalf of the employee makes a good faith report or is about to report, verbally or in writing, to the employer or appropriate authority an instance of wrongdoing or waste.
An employer’s actions constitute waste when they result in substantial abuse, misuse, destruction or loss of funds or resources belonging to or derived from Commonwealth or political subdivision sources. Wrongdoing is a violation (not merely of a technical or minimal nature of a Federal or State statute or regulation), of a political subdivision ordinance or regulation, or of a code of conduct or ethics designed to protect the interest of the public or the employer.
An employee “whistleblower” under the law is a person who witnesses or has evidence of wrongdoing or waste while employed and who makes a good faith report of the wrongdoing or waste, verbally or in writing, to one of the person’s superiors, to an agent of the employer or to an appropriate authority. A covered employer under the law include any of the following which receives money from a public body to perform work or provide services relative to the performance of work for or the provision of services to a public body: (a) An individual; (2) A partnership; (3) An association; (4) a corporation for profit; and (5) a corporation not for profit.
An employee has 180 days to bring a civil action under the Pennsylvania Whistleblower Law and, as a remedy for proving a violation by the employer, may receive reinstatement, back pay, reasonable attorneys’ fees and other damages.
What type of state-law remedies are available to New Jersey whistleblowers?
The Conscientious Employee Protection Act, N.J.S.A. 34:19-1 et seq. (“CEPA”), was enacted to protect whistle-blowers in New Jersey from retaliatory action and the scope is limited to claims for retaliatory discharge. However, CEPA is one of the most far-reaching whistleblower statutes in the country, as it applies to both private and public employees.
Under CEPA, “[a]n employer shall not take any retaliatory action against an employee because the employee does any of the following: disclosing or threatening to disclose an action by an employer that the employee believes to be in violation of a law or is fraudulent or criminal, providing information/testifying for an investigation into any employer violation, or objecting/refusing to participate in an activity that the employee reasonably believes to be a violation of a law, is fraudulent or criminal, or is incompatible with a clear mandate of public policy.
To succeed in a CEPA claim a plaintiff must prove four elements:
- (1) that the plaintiff reasonably believed that employer’s conduct violated a law or regulation;
- (2) that the plaintiff performed “whistle-blowing activity” as defined in CEPA;
- (3) that an adverse employment action has been taken against him or her; and
- (4) that the whistle-blowing activity caused such adverse employment action.
Federal Whistleblower Statutes Enforced by OSHA
The Occupational Safety and Health Act and a number of other laws protect workers against retaliation for complaining to their employers, unions, OSHA, or other government agencies about unsafe or unhealthful conditions in the workplace, environmental problems, certain public safety hazards, and certain violations of federal provisions concerning securities fraud, as well as for engaging in other related protected activities. Whistleblowers may not be transferred, denied a raise, have their hours reduced, or be fired or punished in any other way because they have exercised any right afforded to them under one of the laws that protect whistleblowers. Pursuant to a majority of these laws, discrimination complaints must be filed as soon as possible – within 30 days of the alleged reprisal; however, in some cases, the laws allow for significantly longer periods of time to submit complaints (up to 180 days).
OSHA administers the employee protection or “whistleblower” provisions of the following seventeen (17) statutes:
- Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA)
- Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA)
- Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA)
- International Safe Container Act (ISCA)
- Energy Reorganization Act (ERA)
- Clean Air Act (CAA)
- Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA)
- Federal Water Pollution Control Act (FWPCA)
- Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)
- Solid Waste Disposal Act (SWDA)
- Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA)
- Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century (AIR21)
- Corporate and Criminal Fraud Accountability Act, Title VIII of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX)
- Pipeline Safety Improvement Act (PSIA)
- Federal Rail Safety Act (FRSA)
- National Transit Systems Security Act (NTSSA)
- Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA)
At the Law Offices of Sidkoff, Pincus & Green, our experienced Pennsylvania and New Jersey attorneys handle many types of legal matters, including whistleblower lawsuits and qui tam actions. If you are interested in having a consultation with one of our Philadelphia Whistleblower Lawyers, please call us at 215-574-0600 or contact us online.