Many businesses find themselves facing lawsuits when someone on their staff reports a perceived wrongdoing to a government agency. This whistleblower or qui tam litigation that your business is faced with can be costly and time-consuming to resolve. Depending on the severity of the accusation, you may first be dealing with investigators from the relevant agency working on establishing whether there is merit to the whistleblower’s claim and if they believe there may be merit, facing civil and even criminal charges.
While the case is under investigation and ongoing, the whistleblower has certain rights, especially if they are still an employee with the business. Initially, the government may not reveal who filed the complaint and keep the whistleblower anonymous. However, after the investigation, if the government chooses not to intervene, the whistleblower still has the right to bring certain types of actions themselves.
Sarbanes-Oxley is part of a series of laws and regulations that protect whistleblowers from retaliatory behavior from their employers. Of course, this becomes complicated when the whistleblower shares classified and confidential information as part of their disclosure. Sarbanes-Oxley, in particular, is focused on the financial regulation of corporations. In some cases, corporate officers are required to report certain types of financial irregularities. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) are two others that businesses often run into.
Once a business discovers, or thinks they know, who the whistleblower is, that individual is entitled to certain protections including nondiscrimination and non-harassment. This means that they cannot be treated differently due to their decision to report the business to an agency. Punitive reactions such as demoting, harassing, or firing someone due to their status as a whistleblower is illegal.
Managing Litigation Defense
Once you discover that your business is going to be under investigation, you probably want to reach out to a law firm with litigation defense experience. Even though you’ll want to comply with the agency’s requests, being organized and presenting your side completely and fairly can help prevent further action on the agency’s part.
If the situation moves on to litigation, then both you and your business litigation attorney will be familiar with the facts and the government’s standing in the case and have a good basis from which to craft a defense. Because our litigation work focuses primarily on business issues, our lawyers are familiar with handling a wide range of complicated business situations, all while helping you keep your business open and advising you on how to appropriately manage whistleblowers. To learn more, reach out to the Dunn Law Firm by calling (435) 628-5405 and set up a free consultation today.