Government Contracts Relator Sufficiently Pleaded Retaliation Claim
Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Relator Sufficiently Pleaded Retaliation Claim

By Government Contracts Editorial Staff

A motion to dismiss a count in a False Claims Act complaint was denied by the District Court for the District of Connecticut because the relator plausibly alleged retaliation. The action arose from a cost-plus contract to manufacture an aircraft engine. The relator, a former contractor employee, informed contractor management that contractor employees were “taking short cuts on tests” with regard to spray coating engine parts and falsified test results. On the same day he informed management, the contractor interrogated the relator, placed him on probation, and escorted him from the contractor’s facility. The contractor terminated the relator’s employment 90 days later. The relator alleged the contractor fired him in retaliation for engaging in protected activity under the FCA, in violation of 31 USC 3730(h). Generally, a relator who alleges a retaliation claim must show that he engaged in activity protected under the statute, the employer was aware of the activity, and the employer took adverse action against him because he engaged in the protected activity.

Falsified Tests. Here, the relator alleged that he informed multiple management-level contractor employees of his findings regarding falsified test results and told management that “the test rig being used was defective and was being manipulated in order to pass quality assurance tests.” Although the relator did not allege that he explicitly raised concerns about an FCA violation, it could be reasonably inferred that the relator put the contractor on notice that he had uncovered a potential fraud with FCA implications. The relator also plausibly alleged that his protected activity was the reason for the adverse employment action against him, that the stated basis for his termination—conflict of interest—was pretextual, and that the real reason for his termination was his internal reporting of potential FCA violations. (U.S. ex rel. Bonzani v. United Technologies Corp., et al., DC Conn, 63 CCF ¶81,627).

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