It is a common and understandable fear among employees that they cannot speak out about what they perceive as illegal activity by their employer for fear that if they do speak they will receive reprisal or retaliation. Understanding this reality, both at the State and Federal level action was taken. At the Federal level, the United States Congress passed the False Claims Act.
The False Claims Act (FCA) includes a provision which protects whistleblowers from retaliation by their employers. Specifically, the FCA protects employees from being “discharged, demoted, suspended, threatened, harassed, or in any other manner discriminated against in the terms and conditions of employment by his or her employer” because the employee investigated, reported or sought to stop an employer from engaging in practices which defraud the United States government. In order to prevail on an FCA retaliation claim, an employee must prove:
- that the employee took action in furtherance of an FCA action;
- that the employer knew about these acts; and
- that the employer discriminated against the employee because of such conduct.
If successful, an individual seeking relief under the FCA may obtain reinstatement with the same seniority status, two times back pay plus interest, and other damages including litigation costs and attorneys’ fees.
In 1997 the Louisiana Legislature re-organized most of the employment discrimination statutes into one consolidated location at La R.S. 32:301 et. seq. This Louisiana statute mirrors the federal law fairly closely. Specifically, The Louisiana Whistleblower Statute (La. R.S. 23:967) provides some protections against retaliation for employees who report or refuse to participate in illegal work practices. This statute requires, among other things, that the plaintiff show that the employer’s workplace acts or practices actually violate state law.
However, The Louisiana Environmental Whistleblower Statute (La. R.S. 30:2027) provides greater protections in that the employee must only show a “reasonable belief” that the employer was violating environmental laws. Under these statutes they provide for compensatory damages, back pay, benefits, reinstatement, court costs and reasonable attorneys’ fees.
If you feel you have been a victim of discrimination or unlawful employment practices, do not hesitate. Many companies have teams of lawyers looking out for their interests, you need the experienced and dedicated team of paralegals, attorneys, and investigators, to assist you here at Sudduth & Associates. Remember that the sooner you get a lawyer involved on your behalf the better your chances of a positive outcome. Contact us today! 337-480-0101.