U.S. Senators Claire McCaskill and Senator Ron Wyden sent a letter to Energy Secretary Rick Perry, citing documents that appear to show the government reimbursed over $24 million to Lawrence Livermore National Security for costs related to whistleblower litigation. According to the letter, a whistleblower provided documents to the Senators about reimbursements by the National Nuclear Security Administration for legal costs related to whistleblower litigation involving contractor Lawrence Livermore National Security.
“Whistleblowers are an invaluable resource for weeding out waste, fraud, and abuse-the last thing the government should be doing is paying the legal fees of contractors who’ve retaliated against whistleblowers,” McCaskill said. “The Department of Energy needs to justify why it spent taxpayer dollars on reimbursing this contractor. And if it can’t, it needs to get that money back now.”
“Allowing the Energy Department to spend taxpayer dollars to reimburse private contractors’ legal fees tips the scales of justice against whistleblowers from start to finish,” said Wyden. “It’s unacceptable the DOE continues to let its contractors run up millions of dollars in legal fees while trying to muzzle employees who bravely come forward with evidence of government waste, fraud or abuse.”
The risk of retaliation against employee-whistleblowers is very real. There are numerous horror stories of firings, transfers, demotions or other forms of bad treatment of employees who have reported misconduct either internally or to the government. However, both federal and state whistleblower laws have significantly strengthened their confidentiality and anti-retaliation provisions. These provisions strictly protect the whistleblower from being fired or demoted or in any way discriminated against in the terms or conditions of their employment in retaliation for bringing a whistleblower claim. Under the False Claims Act, and largely followed by the other whistleblower laws, a company found to violate these anti-retaliation provisions will be required to reinstate the employee at the same level of seniority and pay two times the amount of back-pay plus “special damages.”
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