False Claims Act Does Not Protect An Employee’s Disclosing His Whistleblower History
On October 20, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio found that the False Claims Act (“FCA”) did not protect an employee who was fired after revealing his history as a whistleblower and offering to help his new employer prevent overcharges on a government contract. The court held that the employee failed to state a claim under the FCA because he did not act “in furtherance of” efforts to stop one or more specific or potential FCA violations.
The plaintiff, Darrell Kem, started working as a Senior Program Analyst on July 1, 2013 for Bering Straits Information Technology (“BSIT”), a defense contractor working at the Defense Supply Center (“DSC”) in Columbus, Ohio. Ten days after he began his employment with BSIT, Mr. Kem volunteered to help BSIT prepare for an audit led by the DSC’s Inspector General. Mr. Kem informed his supervisor that he previously conducted an audit of a different defense contractor and “blew a whistle on over charging.” Soon after, BSIT revoked Mr. Kem’s security clearance and, on August 22, 2013, terminated his employment because he did not have the clearance necessary for the position.
In his complaint, Mr. Kem alleged that BSIT terminated his employment “out of fear he would discover his employer or another party affiliated with the Defendant engaged in fraudulent billing activity and report it to the government.” He claimed that BSIT acted unlawfully by terminating his employment “because he volunteer[ed] to help an employer prevent defrauding the United States government.”
The court, however, ruled that the FCA did not protect the plaintiff’s conduct and, accordingly, granted BSIT’s motion to dismiss. The court explained that “the most Plaintiff alleged . . . is that he expressed an interest in helping BSIT prepare for an audit and that he was uniquely qualified for that role based on his past audit experience. Such conduct is analogous to expressing an interest in a compliance position, which common sense dictates is not protected activity within the plain language of [the FCA].”
After a long line of decisions expanding the FCA’s protections, this decision properly found that an employee does not engage in protected activity merely by offering to help a contractor avoid potential violations.