You are an upstanding worker under government contract who has devoted years of service to your employer. You have never taken as much as a paper clip from your desk for personal use. You use company time effectively and efficiently and are always honest about your achievements as well as the areas in which you still could use some professional improvement. However, you have recently seen evidence that your boss and others are not playing by the same rules. Should you notify the proper authorities about your office's wrongdoing? If so, will you face retribution at work for revealing the misconduct? There are federal and state laws that protect residents of Texas who choose to act as whistleblowers. There is also the possibility of financial benefit for those who step forward and expose a problem in the workplace.
A private individual who reports misuse of funds allocated by the government or other improper activity by those working for the government can file a qui tam lawsuit, through which the individual has the right to receive part of the penalty imposed on the defendant.  The most common ways in which government money is misappropriated include filing false claims for good or services that were never provided, submitting false cost and pricing information to the government when negotiating a contract, providing false information in order to receive government benefits (such as Medicaid or food stamps), and submitting false certification stating that a product meets safety and reliability standards.  If you report any such actions to the government and money is reclaimed in the ensuing legal filings, you would be entitled to part of the settlement. In 2006 alone, the federal government recovered more than $3 billion in settlements and judgments from qui tam lawsuits filed by private citizens, with those filing usually receiving 10% to 30% of the recovered funds. 
Just last month, Texas served as the backdrop for a major case involving the misuse of government funds and a resulting qui tam lawsuit. Boeing Co. agreed to pay the United States government $25 million to settle claims that the company did defective work on an Air Force fleet of KC-10s.  The investigation that occurred during the legal proceedings also showed that Boeing Co. overcharged the government for installing insulation blankets by padding the estimated hours of work and charging an excessive hourly rate for labor. The faulty work occurred at the Boeing Aerospace Support Center in San Antonio and was reported by two former Boeing workers. The two employees, who filed a whistleblower lawsuit, will receive $2.6 million of the settlement for bringing Boeing's actions to the attention of the government. 
In another whistleblower or qui tam case taking place in Texas, this time involving state government as well as federal funds, Ms. Doreatha Walker is suing Hitchcock Independent School District because she believes she was fired for reporting fraud to the Texas Education Agency.  Walker alleges that Hitchcock superintendent Mike Bergman was writing false reports to the TEA and padding numbers in order to receive reimbursement for the transportation of Head Start students. The money received by the school district for this service came from a federal grant, thereby creating cause for a qui tam lawsuit. Mr. Bergman placed Walker on administrative leave due to, he asserts, complaints from parents and teachers as well as her failure to follow his directives. Walker, on the other hand, claims that the disciplinary action was an attempt to humiliate her and discredit her professional reputation. The outcome of this legal dispute is still pending.
There is a strong belief that there will be an increase in employees through out Texas and the rest of the country who blow the whistle on their employers due to the large amount of federal bailout money that has been distributed to companies throughout the country. The accusations will be made using the False Claims Act, which establishes liability for anyone who improperly receives or avoids payment to the federal government. This federal law was strengthened by the Senate earlier this year to make sure that the bailout money, which comes from the taxpayers, can be recovered by the government when lost to fraud and abuse.  In the 1980s, the False Claims Act was used primarily against defense contractors. A decade later, the majority of cases stemmed from abuse within the health care industry.  Now, corporations such as the car manufacturers that are not as familiar with the guidelines of the False Claims Act are going to be under closer scrutiny following their bailout by Washington, D.C. In a recent online poll, 78.9% of executives admitted that they were unfamiliar with the False Claims Act.  Without an education concerning the expected level of accountability when accepting money from the government, these companies will be watched closely by employees to expose any misuse of funds.
If you have observed the misuse of government funds in your workplace, you may have the grounds for a qui tam lawsuit. You should plan to speak with a labor and employment attorney before moving forward with your claim. Put yourself in the best position possible, both in terms of your professional future and possible financial reward. Hire a lawyer!
Contact an Aggressive Qui Tam Attorney at Bertolino LLP
At Bertolino LLP, we have qui tam (whistleblower) lawyers who are ready to protect your rights and prevent any retaliation for whistle blowing. With law offices in Austin, Houston, and San Antonio, we have convenient locations to assist workers throughout Texas. To contact the Austin office, call 512-717-5432. For the San Antonio office, call 210-247-9907. For the Houston office, call 713-357-2467. You may also contact the Firm by e-mail.
 "Qui Tam/Whistleblower," Van Wey & Johnson, http://www.vanweyjohnson.com/PracticeAreas/Qui-Tam-Whistleblower.asp, 2009.
 The Associated Press, "Boeing Settles K-10 Whistleblower Lawsuit," Air Force Times, http://www.airforcetimes.com/news/2009/08/ap_boeing_081309/, August 14, 2009.
 Meyers, Rhiannon, "Hitchcock principal files whistleblower lawsuit," The Daily News, http://www.khou.com/news/local/galveston/stories/khou090813_jj_whistleblower-hitchcock-filed.d7212951.html, August 13, 2009.
 Friedman, Mark, "Lawyers predicting increase in 'whistleblower' lawsuits: Congress strengthens fraud act; recoveries can reach the multimillion-dollar range," Business Services Industry, http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_hb5248/is_23_26/ai_n32068361/pg_2/?tag=content;col1, June 8, 2009.
 Baldas, Tresa, "Companies Predict Bailout-Related Increase in Whistleblower Lawsuits," Law.com, http://www.law.com/jsp/article.jsp?id=1202430046035, April 21, 2009.