Becoming a whistleblower in a qui tam case against a current or former employer is not something to be taken lightly. Whistleblowers sometimes can ultimately reap hefty rewards, but the fall-out from these cases can be extreme and life-changing. Below are some negative repercussions you could experience if you blow the whistle on your employer:
- Retaliation. If you are still working for the company and initiate whistle-blowing actions, even though retaliation is illegal, it's also very common. Sometimes it doesn't even come from upper management but from coworkers who are upset with you for challenging the status quo. Retaliation can take many forms - terminations, suspensions, demotions, hostile work environments or scheduling problems are all common ways to get back at whistleblowers.
- Legal Consequences. If whistleblowers took part in some of the illegal activities, they may not be immune from prosecution for the role they played in the crimes. However, taking these actions now may potentially result in lesser penalties.
- Blacklisting. Often whistleblowers discover that the industry has blacklisted them for their whistleblowing activities. Companies may view you as a rabble-rouser who can't be trusted, even if they are not personally involved in wrongdoing.
- Contractual Violations. Whistleblowing often involves violating professional or contractual obligations. As such, whistleblowers could become defendants in civil litigation for breach of contract or other torts.
Federal intervention in Texas qui tam case
This week, the Justice Department issued a press release indicating federal intervention in an alleged scheme involving multiple Texas-based defendants, namely East Texas Medical Center Regional Healthcare System. The nonprofit health care system has its corporate office in Tyler and is comprised of 11 hospitals in the region. Other defendants include Emergency Medical Services Authority and its president, Herbert Stephen Williamson; East Texas Medical Center Regional Health Services, Inc.; and Paramedics Plus, LLC.
According to the Acting U.S. Attorney, the complaint involves allegations of kickbacks that violate both the Anti-Kickback Statute and the False Claims Act.
The heart of the matter
The basis of the qui tam lawsuit deal is with the ambulance services provided by ETMC to other states via Paramedics Plus, the group's subsidiary, which is not a nonprofit. It's alleged that both entities were involved in paying kickbacks in order to hold onto a contract for public ambulance services. The Emergency Medical Services Authority's president, Williamson, awarded the contracts.
According to the Justice Department, Paramedics Plus and ETMC paid out over $20 million in the kickback scheme. Defendants are accused of making payments in cash totaling a minimum of $50,000 directly to Williamson.
The whistleblower is the former Chief Operating Officer of Paramedics Plus. His qui tam lawsuit was first filed under the False Claims Act.
What to do before you blow the whistle
First, understand that this action and its consequences are not something that you have to bear alone. You should seek the counsel of an attorney who has extensive knowledge of and experience with qui tam lawsuits and who represents whistleblowers. This will offer you the best protection of your rights against retaliatory actions.