A group of Democratic lawmakers introduced a whistleblower protection bill Monday, June 15, aimed at protecting the trillions of dollars the U.S. government is spending on coronavirus relief from fraud, waste and abuse.
The COVID-19 Whistleblower Protection Act would also give whistleblowers special federal protections to discourage wrongdoers from retaliating against anyone reporting potential fraud. The protections also make it easier for whistleblowers facing retaliation to seek justice through federal lawsuits.
“Whistleblowers are truth-tellers. They have moral compasses and their conviction saves American taxpayers billions of dollars each year,” said Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), in a statement announcing the bill’s introduction. “Frontline workers have been the true heroes of this pandemic, and we must protect those who have the courage to come forward to uncover waste, fraud, and abuse,” she added.
The bill offers protections to any employees or former employees of recipients of funds released under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) or similar legislation aimed at providing relief from the COVID-19 pandemic. The proposed bill also creates a legal framework for non-federal employees and contractors, giving the Department of Labor the authority to investigate retaliation claims.
Under the terms of the bill, whistleblowers may report misconduct through a wide range of channels, including Congress, and state and federal regulatory agencies, law enforcement, and other appropriate authorities.
Whistleblowers who have suffered retaliation and those who cannot find administrative relief for a complaint will have the right to file a federal lawsuit seeking compensation and damages through a jury trial, according to the proposed bill.
Additionally, the bill would protect the identity of whistleblowers and shield them from gag orders. Whistleblowers would have a three-year limit to file complaints under the proposed Act.
“As the COVID-19 pandemic devastates lives and livelihoods across the nation, our people desperately need the financial aid provided by the CARES Act and other pandemic response bills,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md), one of the bill’s sponsors. “We cannot afford to have these precious relief dollars swept up by scammers, conmen and cheats. We must give real protection to whistleblowers who are brave enough to speak out when they see our tax dollars being misused or stolen.”
Other House sponsors of the bill include Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), Jahana Hayes (D-Conn.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Kathleen M. Rice (D-N.Y.), and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.).
Senators sponsoring the bill are Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).
Beasley Allen has a Whistleblower Litigation Team in place to handle False Claims Act (FCA) claims. Due to our firm’s heavy involvement in whistleblower litigation, there was a definite need for the creation of a team specializing in whistleblower cases. Fraud against the federal government has been and continues to be a huge problem, involving many industries in this country.
As we have consistently stated, whistleblowers are the key to exposing corporate wrongdoing and government fraud. A person who has first-hand knowledge of fraud or other wrongdoing may have a whistleblower case. Before you report suspected fraud or other wrongdoing – before you “blow the whistle” – it is important to make sure you have a valid claim and that you are prepared for what lies ahead. Beasley Allen’s group of lawyers dedicated to handling whistleblower cases can navigate you the oftentimes risky and complex litigation.
Lawyers on our whistleblower litigation team are Lance Gould, Larry Golston, Lauren Miles, Leon Hampton, Leslie Pescia, Paul Evans and Tyner Helms. If you are aware of fraud being committed against the federal or state governments, you could be rewarded for reporting the fraud. If you have any questions about whether you qualify as a whistleblower, you can contact a lawyer at Beasley Allen for a free and confidential evaluation of your claim.