Under the Florida False Claims Acts, if an employee becomes aware that his or her employer has filed a false claim to a governmental agency, that employee may file a lawsuit and be awarded as much as 25 to 30 percent of the amount recovered. There is also a federal False Claims Act that covers federal false claims. For example, if an employee is required to submit a false time card or false report (e.g., an insurance report) to a state or federal agency under which the employer has a contract to provide products or services, the employee may sue under the applicable Florida or federal False Claims Act and will be awarded compensation. These laws are meant to assist the government in recovering money that is stolen by government contractors. The lawsuits are called "Qui Tam" lawsuits, which is short for "Qui tam pro domino rege quam pro se ipso," a Latin phrase which means "He who sues on behalf of the King, also sues for himself as well."
However, it should be noted that an individual cannot file a claim based on "public information." The individual must be the original source of the information, e.g., he or she must have personal knowledge of and/or seen the false claim or fraud perpetrated. In the employment context, if an employee is required by his employer to submit a false claim or report, that employee has standing to sue under the False Claims Act and may recover as much as 30 percent of the amount recovered by the government. If an employee files a claim under the False Claims Act and gets fired because of it, then the employee can sue the employer for retaliation under the Florida Civil Rights Act or under the applicable federal law.
An example of recent litigation under the False Claims Act is the case of Merck Pharmaceuticals, where they agreed to pay $650,000.00 to settle a False Claims Act lawsuit. That lawsuit was settled in January 2008 and involved accusations of the company taking kickbacks and violating Medicaid best price regulations for the pharmaceuticals that it was marketing. Another example is the recent settlement (September 2009) by Pfizer Pharmaceuticals where they agreed to pay $2.3 billion for allegedly marketing "off label" drugs that were not approved by the Food and Drug Administration. In that case, a Pfizer employee will receive more than $51 million for bringing the matter to the attention of the authorities under the False Claims Act.
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If you have any questions regarding employment law, please do not hesitate to contact me, Santiago J. Padilla, Esq., either at 800-483-7197, or [email protected]