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Whistleblowers accuse Merck of misstating vaccine effectiveness

Employees in Minneapolis may find themselves in a position where they discover fraudulent activity by their employer. In this case, they may not know if there is anything they are able to do to prevent this from happening. It is important for them to know that there is and it is covered under the whistleblower provision of the False Claims Act.

Two former Merck employees are using the provision to bring a claim against the company stating that they obtained millions of dollars from the U.S. government by overstating the effectiveness of the mumps vaccine.

These two individuals who previously worked for Merck are able to sue on behalf of the government under the False Claims Act. Their lawsuit is asking for monetary compensation in the amount of three times the damages experienced by the U.S. as well as the maximum employee award allowed under the statute.

The False Claims Act provides a route for U.S. taxpayers to recover the money that is fraudulently stolen by contractors for the U.S. government. The qui tam provision, also known as the whistleblower provision, allows citizens to sue on behalf of the government if they have evidence of this fraud.

Some of the more common employer acts reported by whistleblowers include the following:

• Failure to pay overtime

• Medicaid/Medicare billing fraud

• Purposeful misclassification of federal contractors

• Direction to cover for undocumented workers

• Direction to falsify financial or legal documents

If employees are still working for the employer on which they have evidence of fraudulent activity, they may be scared to bring it to the attention of the court system for fear it will have a negative impact on their job. However, in this case, there are protections against retaliation against whistleblowers.

Some of the most common retaliatory acts taken by employers may include harassment, demotions or even termination. As long as the employee believed in good faith that the fraudulent activity was taking place, this type of retaliation is wrong and there are state and federal laws to protect employees from being treated in this manner.

Source: Nasdaq.com, "Lawsuit Claims Merck Overstated Mumps Vaccine Effectiveness," Jon Kamp, June 28, 2012

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