Whistleblowing in the Healthcare Industry
Written by AskTheLawyers.com™ on behalf of Jeffrey Phillips with Phillips Law Group.
Whistleblowing is a term used to describe when an employee voices significant concerns over the conduct of another employee or managing body within a company. In the healthcare industry, whistleblowing often occurs when healthcare workers raise concerns regarding patient safety, unethical treatment, or illegal conduct. Whistleblowers often receive negative treatment from higher-ups who are considered about the safety of their jobs or reputations over the complaint, and even from fellow employees. However, there are certain protections in place to prevent retaliation against whistleblowers.
To make a complaint regarding your company’s conduct, whistleblower complaints can be filed online with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) here. If you are experiencing retaliation as a result of whistleblowing in the healthcare or another industry, contact a workplace retaliation attorney as soon as possible.
Reasons for whistleblowing in the healthcare industry include but are not limited to:
- Billing for services not rendered
- Billing for services that are not medically necessary
- Billing for unlicensed personnel or unauthorized locations
- Off-label marketing of prescription drugs
- Use of defective products
- Pricing fraud
- Clinical trial or FDA fraud
- Compounding pharmacy fraud
- Electronic health record fraud
Medical professionals are legally obligated to report these and other instances where their employer or coworkers might be taking advantage of patients, providing reasonable evidence exists to support the complaint. However, whistleblowing without any evidence to back up the complaint is dangerous and can lead to defamation lawsuits; this is considered irresponsible whistleblowing.
The Whistleblower Protection Act protects employees who voice concern over company conduct from retaliation by their employer.
Retaliation may include anything from wrongful termination of an employee, to demotion or harassment. Any behavior intended to punish a whistleblower for speaking out regarding evidence of a violation of law or a threat to the public’s health and safety is considered retaliation and is illegal under the Whistleblower Protection Act. Allegations of whistleblower retaliation are handled by the Securities and Exchange Commission through the OSC. Employer retaliation can be reported to the OSC, in addition to seeking legal counsel.
It is important to take caution when deciding to blow the whistle on poor company conduct.
Whistleblowing especially in the healthcare industry can have a wide array of ramifications for both the employee and the employer. It may help to contact a workplace retaliation attorney before blowing the whistle in order to get a better idea of what you can expect from the process, as well as how you can best protect yourself. In order to protect yourself against a defamation lawsuit, it’s a good idea to collect any evidence which could prove the misconduct and store it somewhere safe before blowing the whistle.
For medical professionals, whistleblowing is considered both an ethical and legal responsibility. In fact, if misconduct is occurring and patients suffer as a result without any complaints from potential whistleblowers, these passive participants could be considered liable. It’s always better to take proactive steps to report misconduct rather than waiting for a government agency to discover it on their own. For advice on how to blow the whistle at work or to learn more about whistleblower protection, contact a workplace retaliation attorney.