Do the Right Thing: Your Rights as a Tennessee Whistleblower
In most companies, employees are well aware of company policy and procedure. When something is done that is illegal or threatens to harm the public interest, the employees are likely to know about it.
So, if you work for a government department, a public or private organization, or a company and you see illegal activities or other violations that lead to a threat against the public interest, should you let someone know? Will you be fired if you do? What is the right thing to do? Our Tennessee whistleblower actions attorneys are here to help you learn about your rights.
What are whistleblower laws?
Basically, whistleblower laws are designed to protect Americans from dishonest business practices and the tremendous cost in both safety and financial losses they can cause. The term “whistleblower” comes from sports, when a referee blows a whistle to call a foul or illegal play in the game.
What are whistleblower protection laws?
Whistleblower protection laws were enacted to protect the American people who see a wrong and want to right it. The idea is that if citizens police their own workplaces, tremendous costs can be avoided.
To that end, one of the first of these laws was enacted in 1863. That year, lawmakers introduced the United States False Claims Act, which was later revised in 1986. Originally passed to protect the government from unscrupulous dealers during the Civil War, the U.S. False Claims Act remains in place today and encourages whistleblowers to take action by:
- Protecting them from unfair dismissal or firing
- Promising them a percentage of the money recovered or damages won by the government in whistleblower actions.These are called qui tam actions – when a private person files a suit of behalf of himself and the government. This person, known as the “relator,” is generally entitled to 15 to 30 percent of the recovery.
Today, one of the biggest areas of government fraud concerns is healthcare. Submitting false claims to Medicare, Medicaid, and Tri-Care has become a lucrative way for companies to cheat the government.
Are Tennessee whistleblowers protected too?
Even though there are laws that protect whistleblowers, many American workers fear retaliation (i.e., being fired or blacklisted) if they blow the whistle on unsafe or illegal activities. The way the whistleblower laws work differ from state to state.
While Tennessee employees can be fired for many reasons, when it comes to filing a whistleblower complaint, your rights are very clear and protected.
There are two state statutes that protect you:
- Tennessee Code Ann. § 50-1-304 protects whistleblowers and allows them to bring qui tam actions against someone who has defrauded the government.
- Tennessee Codes Ann.§ § 50-3-106(7), 50-3-409 protect employees who report health and safety violations.
Generally, Tennessee whistleblower laws are related to both federal and state law and to regulations that protect public health, safety and welfare.
Do I need a whistleblower actions attorney?
An attorney, who can prepare your case and present it to the Justice Department, represents most false claims whistleblowers. Some courts have even ruled that individuals not represented cannot go it alone because they are acting as government attorneys.
If you should happen to become aware of an illegal activity through your work, you should contact a Tennessee whistleblower actions attorney. Whistleblowers have saved the government billions of dollars; it’s the right thing to do.
At Bailey & Greer in Memphis, we can advise you as to whether you should proceed with your suit and represent you if you do. Give us a call toll free at 901.475.7434 or fill out the confidential contact form on this page.
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