Articles Posted in Whistleblowers

Austin Campbell

Dallas Employment Trial Lawyer Austin Campbell

One of the more esoteric (arguably boring) concepts in law is the idea of “standing”—that is, what kinds of disputes the Constitution allows courts to consider, and who can bring them.  To put it another way, “standing” is about whether someone is allowed to sue someone else in the first place.  However, standing to sue is often directly tied to whether someone’s rights are protected by law.

 The new abortion law that took effect in Texas on September 1, 2021, is controversial for many reasons.  This article focuses on just one of those reasons: the law is enforced through a “bounty” provision that may allow anyone, anywhere, to sue someone for knowingly aiding or abetting—or even just intending to aid or abet—an abortion more than six weeks into a pregnancy.  The plaintiff in that situation can win a bounty of $10,000 plus costs and attorneys’ fees.  This article places that provision in context with the rules of standing for qui tam whistleblowers and other employment claims to point out just how much of a sea change it represents.  

Austin Campbell

Austin Campbell

Many employees may be unsure what to do if they discover they have been treated unlawfully by their employer.  Going straight into a lawsuit can be a scary step, and is not always the right one.  If you thought “there must be some government agency that can investigate and fix what happened,” often you would be right.  However, that is not always the case, and sometimes the existence of that agency can complicate things.  This article gives a basic overview of the “exhaustion of administrative remedies,” so that if you find yourself in that situation, you might know to avoid some pitfalls in the law and take advantage of opportunities to right how you were wronged.  

Not all employment laws are created equal.  Some, like the laws that prohibit things like sex, race, or age discrimination, are “administered” by agencies like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the Texas Workforce Commission—Civil Rights Division (for equivalent Texas laws).  That means that you can file a complaint with those agencies to be investigated and (ideally) resolved before any lawsuit needs to be filed.  Similarly, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration administers OSH Act retaliation claims, the Department of Labor administers unpaid overtime claims, and the National Labor Relations Board administers claims (like for anti-union activities) under the National Labor Relations Act.  There are lots of agencies like those.    

rasha-zeyadehDallas Lonestar works for the city of Palestine. Dallas Lonestar discovers that several city officials are misusing city funds. Dallas reports his discovery to the Palestine Police Department (“PPD”). The PPD notifies Palestine city officials of Dallas Lonestar’s report and begins investigating the claim.   A few days later, Dallas Lonestar’s supervisor fires him. The city alleged Dallas Lonestar was fired because of poor performance. Dallas Lonestar was never reprimanded for performance related issues and had no reason to believe his performance was lacking. In fact, shortly before being fired, he was given a glowing performance rating. Hence, Dallas Lonestar believes he was fired because he filed a report with the PPD regarding city officials’ misuse of city funds. Dallas Lonestar is angry, without a job, and wants to sue the city of Palestine. What are his rights?

The Texas Whistleblower Act prohibits a state or local government entity from taking adverse personnel action against an employee “who in good faith reports a violation of law by the employing governmental entity or another public employee to an appropriate law enforcement authority.” The two most important considerations when determining whether a violation of the Texas Whistleblower Act occurred are: (1) whether you acted in “good faith” which means that you believed the conduct you reported was a violation of law and your belief was reasonable; and (2) whether you reported the violation to an appropriate law enforcement agency which is a government entity you believed is authorized to either enforce the laws or investigate or prosecute a violation of criminal law. For instance, an internal report of illegal activity to someone else within the public entity (supervisor/HR) is not typically a report made to an appropriate law enforcement authority. 

Continue reading ›

deontae-wherryThe False Claims Act (FCA) is a longstanding federal statute that was originally enacted to combat defense contractors who committed fraud against the federal government during the Civil War. Since the 1860s, the FCA has been revised and has become an authoritative tool to prevent fraud committed against the federal government. Understanding the federal government cannot know every individual or company who knowingly submit fraudulent claims, the FCA’s whistleblower provision allows individuals and employees to bring a qui tam action on behalf of the government.

Since 1986, after Congress strengthened the FCA, the government has recovered more than $62 billion in civil false claims. According to the Department of Justice, the government collected more than $3 billion in settlements and judgments from civil cases involving fraud and false claims against the government in the fiscal year 2019. Moreover, during the 2019 fiscal year, the government paid out more than $265 million to individuals, like you, who exposed fraud and filed qui tam actions. With these significant payouts, there is no reason to remain silent if you know your employer is defrauding the federal government.

Continue reading ›

fadi-yousefCongress passed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act in 2010 shortly after the financial crisis, commonly known as the Great Recession. The Act’s aim was to “promote the financial stability of the United States by improving accountability and transparency in the financial system, to end ‘too big to fail,’ to protect the American taxpayer by ending bailouts, to protect consumers from abusive financial services practices, and for other purposes.”

Continue reading ›

fadi-yousefThe Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (“SOX”) is a federal law that established new standards for public companies and created whistleblower protection for employees who disclose information that could show a violation of federal securities law, SEC rules, or any federal law related to fraud against the shareholders. Given its diverse civil, criminal and administrative provisions, SOX could be considered one of the most important whistleblower protection laws.

Unlike most whistleblower laws, SOX’s whistleblower protection provisions are not limited to providing a legal remedy for wrongfully terminated employees. In addition to containing employment-based protections for employee whistleblowers, the law contains other provisions directly relevant to whistleblower protection:

Continue reading ›

austin-campbellOver 1.6 million Texans were employed in the healthcare and social assistance industry by 2019, and that number is expected to grow steadily over the next decade.  Nursing in particular is one of the top five occupations in the state by number of online “help wanted” ads.  Because of that, it is all the more important that healthcare workers here are well-trained and competent, and also are empowered to say something when they see something that puts patient health or safety at risk.

Fortunately, the Texas Health & Safety Code provides some powerful whistleblower protections that are unique to the healthcare industry.  Unfortunately, figuring out if you fall within those protections is not always simple because the Code has so many different components.  Making things harder, Texas courts have interpreted relatively few parts of the Texas Health & Safety Code compared to other employment laws.  This article is meant to provide the reader with some basic information about some of the protections that healthcare workers (and others) have under this law, as well as limitations in the Code.

Continue reading ›

austin-campbellGenerally, you have the burden of proving if your employer’s actions toward you violate the law. Of course, sophisticated employers seldom admit to doing something that breaks the law, and often employment cases turn on a “he-said/she-said” moment, where the employee claims something was said and the employer later denies it. One way, we sometimes see employees try to even the playing field by secretly recording conversations in the workplace to have proof of illegal activity beyond their own word.

This article answers some key questions employees often have about recording in the workplace. Is it legal for you to do it? Can your employer order you not to? Can your employer punish you for recording? Is it a good idea?

Continue reading ›

austin-campbellThe Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is part of the Department of Labor and administers the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act), as well as numerous other safety and whistleblower laws.  OSHA also sets safety standards for various industries.  Because of OSHA, many employers have a general duty to prevent working conditions that pose a risk of serious and recognized harm.

Continue reading ›

Over the past few decades, government regulators have begun to keep a much closer eye on the conduct of those in charge at large corporations. However, regulators may not be privy to all the inner-workings of a corporation, and given the number of corporations and lack of available resources to ferret out the wrongdoers, corporate misconduct flew under the radar for years. More recently, however, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) started the SEC whistleblower program, which relies on employee whistleblowers to report violations of U.S. securities laws.

Under the SEC whistleblower program, an employee who voluntarily reports information that assists the SEC in recovering amounts of more than $1 million is eligible for a financial award. The amount of the award ranges between 10% to 30% of the monetary sanctions collected by the government. These funds are paid out of a separate fund called the Investor Protection Fund, rather than with company proceeds.

To be eligible for a reward through the SEC Whistleblower program, a reporting employee must be able to show the following:

  • The information provided relates to a violation of U.S. securities law or relates to the bribery of a foreign official;
  • The information was provided voluntarily, and not in response to questioning or an investigation;
  • The information was based on personal knowledge, and not publicly available records; and
  • The information must result in a new investigation or significantly contribute to an existing investigation.

Continue reading ›

Contact Information