Whistleblower retaliation is illegal but ask anyone who filed a False Claims Act case against their employer while still employed and chances are good they suffered from some form of retaliation. Acts of retaliation can range from blacklisting to being shunned by co-workers to termination.
One pharmacist who blew the whistle against Walgreens was awarded $1.1 million for the retaliation he suffered.
Sami Mitri was a long time employee of Walgreens. In 2008, he noticed that the pharmacy giant was billing Medicare for 30 day prescription refills but giving patients a 10 day drug supply. Like any good employee, Mitri first took his concerns to management. Instead of thanking him for bringing the problem to light, a manager told Mitri that it wasn’t his “job to report an example of fraudulent billing…to the government.”
Mitri persisted in reporting the overbilling to both management and ultimately to Medicare and the California Department of Healthcare. Although whistleblower retaliation is illegal under both California and federal law, Walgreens terminated Mitri.
The pharmacy giant claimed they fired him because he worked ten minutes past his scheduled shift. The company said it was concerned about overtime. Mitri says that the claimed reason for his termination was a mere subterfuge. Happily, the court agreed with Mitri.
In 2011, a jury awarded Mitri $88,000 for lost wages and $1.1 million on his whistleblower retaliation claim. Instead of paying the award, Walgreens appealed. A federal appeals court later declined to toss out the whistleblower retaliation claim and sent the matter back to the trial court. In December, the court re-imposed the $1.1 million whistleblower retaliation award.
In reinstating the award, the court said every dollar lost to the “serious crime [of Medicare] fraud is a dollar that could have provided medical care to the elderly or disabled.” The court also ruled that punitive damage awards are “supposed to sting” and that Walgreen’s conduct was “reprehensible.”
Score one for the good guys!
Congress passed strong whistleblower retaliation laws to insure that folks brave enough to stand up and report fraud don’t have to suffer for their actions. Although Walgreens was able to delay the process for 4 years, justice finally prevailed.
Mahany & Ertl is a full service whistleblower law firm protecting the rights of whistleblowers and insuring they receive the highest possible awards allowed by law. We have helped the government recover over $16 billion and are ready to help you get your piece of the pie. For more information, contact attorney Brian Mahany at or by telephone at (414) 704-6731. All inquiries protected by the attorney – client privilege.