Whistleblowing in Afghanistan Allegedly Elicits Retaliatory Response

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I never did give anybody hell. I just told the truth and they thought it was hell.

Harry S. Truman 

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia ruled in September 2013 that Mike Elder proffered sufficient evidence to continue with his False Claims Act action against DRS Technologies, Inc. (DRS).

Facts of the case

DRS, a defense technology company, hired Elder in October 2007 as a telecommunications specialist primarily responsible for installing and instructing the Afghan National Police forces on the various communications equipment. Elder realized that DRS was instructing all of its employees to charge 12 labor hours every day even though they were working only five to six hours per day and often vacationing on Fridays. Elder documented the dishonest billing and raised his concerns with superiors in December 2007. His supervisor instructed Elder to follow the current billing procedure. When Elder reported his hours accurately, his supervisor again told him to change them to 12 hours per day. One week later, DRS moved Elder to eastern Afghanistan. 

As Elder continued to contravene his supervisors' orders by reporting his hours honestly, he was re-deployed in a more dangerous area called Barge Matal. Neither area offered much work for Elder to do. 

Elder left Barge Matal—because unarmed civilians were not allowed there—and returned to the U.S. Immediately upon arrival, DRS terminated him. 

Preventing retaliation

The False Claims Act provides a cause of action for citizens who suffer retaliation at work for blowing the whistle on fraud against the U.S. The law states that any employee who suffered adverse employment action because of lawful acts committed by the employee to prevent fraud against the U.S is entitled to whatever relief is necessary to make the employee whole. Courts have identified the following three elements that the plaintiff must prove:

  • Plaintiff took protective action pursuant to a qui tam action under the False Claims Act
  • The employer had notice of these actions
  • The employer took adverse employment actions such as demotion, suspension or termination as a result of plaintiff's actions

Based on the facts alleged by Elder, the U.S. District Court denied DRS’ motion to dismiss. 

Topics:  False Claims Act, Middle East, Retaliation, Whistleblowers

Published In: Civil Procedure Updates, Civil Rights Updates, Labor & Employment Updates

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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