R. Scott Oswald, managing principal of The Employment Law Group® law firm, was recently interviewed by Law360 regarding a reported increase in whistleblower retaliation claims brought by defense contractors. The Law360 article credited the increased amount of reprisal complaints by defense contractors who to recent changes to federal law and regulations.
In addition to “changes to the law [that] may have added more protections,” Mr. Oswald also cited “the amount of defense-related work that’s been outsourced to private companies in connection with the war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan [as another] also a key factor in the rise in defense contractor retaliation claims.”
Whistleblower attorney Oswald noted that “companies may use standards or practices that are perfectly acceptable in the private realm but don’t work when dealing with defense contracts.” This often “puts employees in a bind [as] managers or executives may ask for classified information about projects they aren’t authorized to have access to, and take umbrage when a subordinate won’t comply with that request.”
“We have individuals who are paid by U.S. government contractors while at the same time take an oath to the U.S. government to maintain national security secrets, so there is this inherent conflict,” Oswald said.
Oswald pointed out the case of William Holowecki, a former Avaya Government Solutions security professional who confronted such a conflict when his manager requested classified information.
The Employment Law Group® represents Mr. Holowecki and recently filed a lawsuit against Avaya which alleges that the company ran afoul of the anti-retaliation provision of the False Claims Act by terminating him for voicing concern that security guards having access to restricted areas. Holowecki also claims he was fired because he complained to his employer that failing to disclose the security guards’ access to restricted areas amounted to fraud against the U.S. government. Finally, Holowecki alleged that Avaya terminated him on account of his refusal to disseminate classified material to a company manager.
According to attorney R. Scott Oswald, “employers would also be well-served to have a clearly articulated complaint procedure that requires managers to make higher-ups aware of potential violations and ensures that the company gets notified officially and directly about complaints.”
Without such a procedure, “a corporation may not be aware that there was has been a complaint because it is not brought to the attention of compliance or risk management professionals.”
Oswald also highlighted the importance complaint procedures for workers, saying that it is “important for employees to know that the company is going to effectively investigate, evaluate and remediate their complaints” as ensuring worker confidence in an employer’s handling of complaints makes workers less likely to seek out outside counsel or go to an outside government agency, and more likely to keep their complaints within the company.
The article, entitled “Defense Contractors Face Rising Wave Of Retaliation Claims”, appeared in the August 10, 2012 edition of Law360.
The Employment Law Group® law firm’s whistleblower attorneys have helped many clients file suit against employers that fraudulently bill the U.S. government, and have established favorable precedents under the retaliation provision of the False Claims Act.
- Former Avaya Government Solutions Employee Claims He Suffered Retaliation and Termination for Blowing the Whistle on Unauthorized Security Practices (employmentlawgroupblog.com)
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