Finding out that your employer is engaging in actions that defraud the government can be very troubling. Minnesota employees who find themselves in such a situation can bring a certain whistleblower action known as a “qui tam” action. This kind of a lawsuit allows the government to recover the funds they were defrauded out of.
When a private person brings a qui tam complaint, it is kept “under seal” — that is, confidential for 60 days or more. A copy of the action is brought before the U.S. Attorney for the employer’s district and a copy of the action is also brought before the U.S. Attorney General. Keeping a claim under seal allows the government time to perform an investigation to determine whether it will intervene. If the government determines that an intervention is necessary, it will take on the main responsibility for pursuing the claim. If the government determines that it will not intervene in the complaint, the person who initially brought the action can pursue a lawsuit.
Intent is not a factor in a qui tam action. The employer will face liability if it is found that the employer submitted a false claim, either knowing it was false, being purposely ignorant as to the falsity of the claim or by recklessly disregarding the veracity of the claim. It is also not mandatory for the government to have incurred financial damages due to the false claim. The issue is solely based on the employer’s actions.
If an employer is found liable in a qui tam action, the employer will have to pay back three times the financial damages they caused the government to incur, along with other financial penalties and possibly punitive damages. Moreover, the worker that initiated the lawsuit may also get a monetary award.
In the end, individuals shouldn’t hesitate to bring a qui tam action if they know an employer is defrauding the government. It is important to hold employers responsible for their wrongdoing, and qui tam actions are one way to do just that.
Source: FindLaw, “Qui Tam Actions: Overview,” accessed Aug. 13, 2016