Previously, Sugarman provided a general overview of Federal and State Whistleblower Claims and the Massachusetts False Claims Act. In Part 3 of the blog series, Sugarman Partner David McCormack explores the Massachusetts Whistleblower Statute protecting health care whistleblowers from retaliatory action.
In the context of health care and in furtherance of the aims of the Massachusetts False Claims Act, the Massachusetts legislature has enacted M.G.L. Chapter 149, Sec. 187. This statute makes it unlawful for a health care facility to refuse to hire, terminate or take any retaliatory action against a health care provider who "discloses or threatens to disclose" a practice of the health care facility that the provider "reasonably believes is in violation of a law or rule or regulation . . . or [is in] violation of professional standards of practice which the health care provider reasonably believes poses a risk to public health." Essentially, the statute provides protection to any Massachusetts health care whistleblower from retaliatory action by a health care facility. This statute would conceivably provide protection for any health care whistleblower who, through his attorneys, files a qui tam action pursuant to the Massachusetts False Claims Act.
Should a health care facility take any retaliatory action towards a whistleblower, the whistleblower protection statute allows the health care whistleblower to commence a lawsuit within two years of the retaliatory action. In such a lawsuit, the whistleblower may be entitled to various remedies and damages, including reinstatement to his former position and/or compensation for any lost wages or benefits, plus interest. In order to discourage unmeritorious claims, the statute allows a Court to award attorneys' fees and court costs to a health care facility should the Court determine that a whistleblower's lawsuit was brought "without basis in law or in fact."
Similar to the False Claims Act, the Massachusetts Health Care Whistleblower Statute also allows the Attorney General to bring an action against a health care facility in the name of the Commonwealth for violation of the statute with penalties of up to $10,000 for each violation as well as reasonable attorney and expert witness fees.
If you have questions regarding a potential whistleblower case or have been the victim of retaliatory action as a result of being a whistleblower, please fill out a contact form, call Benjamin Zimmermann or David McCormack at 617-542-1000 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.