Atlanta Whistleblower Attorneys
We Fight for the Rights of Whistleblowers Across the Country
Malfeasance and wrongdoing in the workplace are often only brought to light by employees who report wrongdoing, a/k/a “whistleblowers.” Whistleblowers may report instances of wrongdoing to upper management, the government, or even the public. Fortunately, whistleblowers are protected by laws that ban retaliation against them. However, whistleblowers often still face discrimination in the workplace and the attorneys at Beal Sutherland Berlin & Brown know how to see that whistleblowers get justice.
There are laws specifically designed to protect whistleblowers:
- The False Claims Act
- The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002
- The Georgia Whistleblower Act
- Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act
Additionally, there are laws like the ones set out by OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Act) which allow relief to workers who face retaliation for filing whistleblower reports. For instance, if you are a whistleblower alerting authorities to pollution, you are protected by the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA). Workers reporting violations of safety rules for commercial vehicles can seek justice under the Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA).
Our law firm can help you get the justice and compensation you deserve. Contact us at (404) 476-5305 to schedule a free consultation.
The False Claims Act
A historic law first passed during the Civil War, the FCA (False Claims Act) originally arose from contractors selling shoddy or defective supplies to the Army, such as poorly made weaponry, or decrepit horses and mules. Under the FCA it is illegal to try to get the government to pay for subpar goods or services. Whistleblowers who try to report that activity are protected from retaliation by the FCA.
Whistleblowers who successfully use the FCA are entitled to back pay, possibly front pay, damages, and other financial remedies. Money can also be recovered under a doctrine of “qui tam” where the whistleblower acts on behalf of the government and is thus entitled to a percentage of the recovered monies.
The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002
The Sarbanes Oxley Act was passed by Congress in 2002 to protect individuals and institutions from suffering financial losses. Whistleblowers sometimes detect fraud and accounting issues in corporations. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (known as “SOX”) protects them when they report fraudulent acts to either their managers or to the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”). Any company that’s publicly traded is regulated by the SEC, so SOX is in place to protect whistleblowers in those companies.
How does SOX work? There are three basic elements:
- The whistleblower is able to report protected activity such as mail fraud, wire fraud, or any violation of SEC rules.
- The company employing the whistleblower retaliated against them.
- The retaliation clearly was a result of the protected activity.
The good news is that under SOX a whistleblower only needs to prove that the retaliation (or any adverse employment action that could be construed as retaliation) was related to the protected activity. Other whistleblower laws demand more strict and stringent proof.
Pursuing a SOX claim pays off. After jumping through a few hoops, whistleblowers can recover front pay, back pay, lost benefits and reimbursement for attorneys’ fees. Emotional damages may be assessed.
The Georgia Whistleblowers Act
Georgia has its own law specific to protecting whistleblowers, the Georgia Whistleblowers Act (GWA). Employees in Georgia who report misdeeds such as abuse, waste, or fraud by a public employer such as a state agency or governing body are entitled to protection under GWA. To prove it, the employee must demonstrate that:
- He was employed by a public employer
- He complained about some form of wrongdoing
- He suffered retaliation or another adverse employment action
- There is a causal connection between the substance of his complaint and the action taken against him
Here are some important considerations regarding this law. Whistleblowers must take care to only report actual misdeeds, not concerns about possible misdeeds. A whistleblower might have been asked to participate in an activity that violates the law or a state regulation, and by refusing may suffer retaliation. That’s a violation of the GWA. Employers cannot adopt any policy that stops or prevents employees from disclosing information about some form of wrongdoing.
Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act
Like SOX, this law also regulates financial services companies. Commonly known as “Dodd-Frank” and passed in 2010, its aim is to prevent financial disasters like the Wall Street crash of 1929 that threw the USA into the Great Depression. In more recent times, the mortgage crisis made Dodd-Frank very relevant because American families suffered when mortgage companies overextended themselves and cause a recession in 2008.
Dodd-Frank was created to expand the protections offered under SOX. Whistleblowers can receive 10-30% of proceeds from settlement of a lawsuit that results in more than $1,000,000 in sanctions. They can recover not only from a company but from its subsidiaries and affiliates. The time in which a whistleblower can bring a claim was lengthened from 90 days to 180 days. Also, complaints to the SEC may be made anonymously.
At Beal Sutherland Berlin and Brown we understand the risk and emotional stress associated with whistleblowing activity. Our attorneys can advise you of your rights and help you understand how to bring suit against an employer intent on retaliation. Call us at 404-476-5305 to speak to an attorney.