Retaliation can be a serious concern for employees. As an employee, you may be placed in a situation where you become aware of wrongdoing by your employer. What do you do? This is your job, after all, and you don’t want to lose it. It can be a difficult decision to make and it’s important you understand what can happen if you decide to come forward.
What is a qui tam action?
A qui tam action is a specific type of whistleblower lawsuit. Both the federal government and North Carolina have laws which authorize them. In a qui tam action, an employee of a private company has discovered some type of misconduct or fraud by their employer, which involves the use of government money.
When this occurs, both federal and state laws permit the employee to file a lawsuit, alleging the misconduct, on behalf of the government. The government then has the option of joining in the lawsuit or permitting the employee to pursue it on their own. The employee is entitled to receive anywhere from 15% to 30% of any penalties levied against the employer as a result of the suit.
The employee who brings a qui tam action will be rightfully concerned about retaliation by their employer. The good news is that both federal and state qui tam laws provide protections to the employee. Employers cannot take any retaliatory action against an employee – such discipline, demotion or termination – for pursuing the claim in good faith. Should an employer retaliate anyway, the employee has the further right to sue the employer for retaliation, separate from the qui tam lawsuit. And damages awarded from a retaliation suit would be independent of any awarded to the employee through the qui tam action.