In Michigan, one of the main reasons employees are reluctant to report workplace wrongdoing as a whistleblower is the fear of how it might negatively impact them in the future. The line between doing the right thing and considering an individual’s future is a thin one. People are encouraged to adhere to their own morals and beliefs when their employer or colleagues are behaving illegally. In the real world, it is not that simple. Understanding the law in its entirety is imperative. So too is it wise to know how a whistleblower is protected if they believe they are being retaliated against.
Court decision says whistleblower protection laws extend to former employees
A recent decision by an appeals court states that the False Claims Act goes beyond protecting current employees from retaliation and extends to protecting former employees. A whistleblower filed a qui tam claim against a Michigan hospital in 2010. In it, he alleged that the facility was taking kickbacks. The hospital paid more than $84 million to settle the claim in 2018. The man and three others reported the wrongdoing which included billing the government for its excess fees. He was the only one who said that the hospital fired him and committed retaliation by putting him on a blacklist, essentially stopping him from getting similar employment.
The claim was rejected at first and he appealed. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided in his favor. With this decision, whistleblowers who are worried about their careers are protected from retaliation just as current employees are. Often, whistleblowers have education and experience that limits the type of jobs they can do. Being retaliated against can cause major challenges to them in the future and keeps them from speaking out. While in the past, those who decided to be whistleblowers might have been subject to retaliation even after they were no longer working for the employer they reported. With this decision, that is no longer the case.
Employees who want to speak out should understand their rights
Regardless of the type of work a person does whether it is in the public or private sector, blue collar or corporate employment, some workplaces take part in illegal behaviors that need to be reported. People who strive to do what they perceive to be the right thing and are fearful should understand the complex nature of the law regarding whistleblower protection. For help, it is wise to have experienced advice from the start. Consulting with those who understand these matters can be critical to reporting the information and not having it hinder the whistleblower’s future.