The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown the country into economic turmoil, with many small businesses being forced to close their doors to prevent the spread of the virus.
In response, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) created the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), a loan forgiveness program meant to incentivize employers to keep their staff on payroll. The more staff kept on payroll, the more loan forgiveness business owners would receive.
However, it has come to light that several applicants to the PPP submitted fraudulent applications, either because they lied on business records to underestimate the number of employees they have, or because they misused funds given to them from the PPP.
Now, the federal government is encouraging workers who are aware of their employers’ PPP fraud to come forward, and is offering significant monetary rewards for doing so. However, many workers aware of their employers’ transgressions refrain from speaking out due to fear of retaliation.
It’s important for you to know that the federal government has several laws in place to protect whistleblowers’ rights. Our Sacramento attorneys discuss those laws in detail below.
OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is an agency under the U.S. Department of Labor designed to assure safe and healthy working conditions for employees and setting and enforcing workplace standards.
One of OSHA’s protections, the Whistleblower Protection Program, specifically protects workers from retaliation for reporting various acts of malfeasance by their employers. Under this program, employers may not take any adverse action against whistleblowers including, but not limited to, the following:
Denying overtime or promotion
Reducing pay or hours
The False Claims Act
Whistleblowers who wish to report their employers’ PPP fraud would do so under the False Claims Act (FCA). Under the FCA, any whistleblower who gets fired for reporting PPP fraud (or suffers any other form of retaliation), must have the harm reversed entirely. This may include:
The return of the whistleblower’s job
Payments for emotional distress
Did Your Employer Commit PPP Fraud? We’re Here to Help
It is important that the funds in the PPP go to the small business owners who need them most. If you know that your employer applied for the PPP illegally or used the funds from the PPP improperly, you may file a whistleblower complaint under the FCA.
The federal government has stated that it may reward whistleblowers with up to 30% of the funds recovered through ensuing litigation.
The FCA requires legal representation in order to file a claim. We’re here to protect your rights and help you through the process. Contact Kershaw Talley Barlow at (916) 520-6639 to schedule a free consultation with our team.