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When can a Tennessee worker bring a qui tam action?

It can be disturbing for a worker in Jackson to discover their employer is committing fraud against the government. The worker may feel morally obligated to report such fraud to the appropriate authorities. One way a worker to do this is to file a qui tam lawsuit.

In a qui tam lawsuit, a person alleges that their employer submitted a false claim to the government. For example, a person could allege their employer overcharged the government, sold something to the government and did not deliver it or in some other way tried to steal something from the government, cheat the government or defraud the government.

Qui tam lawsuits are kept confidential for a minimum of 60 days, so the government can determine whether to intervene on the claim. If the government does intervene, it will be responsible for prosecuting the claim. If the government does not intervene, the worker can pursue a lawsuit on his or her own.

To prevail in a qui tam lawsuit, it is not necessary to prove intent on the part of the employer. An employer can be held liable in a qui tam lawsuit if it is shown that they knew a claim submitted was false, remained deliberately ignorant of the veracity of the claim or acted with reckless disregard to the veracity of the claim.

If an employer is found liable in a qui tam action and the government intervened, not only will the employer have to pay a significant amount of damages to the government, but the worker who originally brought the claim could receive anywhere from 15 to 30 percent of the damages awarded. If the government did not intervene, and the worker prevailed in the qui tam action, the worker could receive 25 to 30 percent of the damages awarded.

As this shows, if a worker discovers their employer has committed fraud against the government, they should not be afraid to take action. Not only is it the ethical thing to do, but they could be awarded for bringing such fraud to light. They may fear they will be retaliated against at work, but they are protected by "whistleblower" laws that prohibit employers from disciplining workers who report employer misconduct. Workers who believe they may have a reason to bring a qui tam claim should make sure they understand how the law applies to their specific circumstances.

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