Government Contractor Accused of Fraud, Whistleblower Retaliation by IT Manager
July 17, 2012 - Comments Off
William Holowecki, formerly employed as the Information Systems Security Manager at Avaya Government Solutions, alleged in a complaint filed on July 12, 2012, that Avaya terminated him in violation of the False Claims Act (“FCA”) after he discovered, documented and reported false certifications made by Avaya to a federal government agency regarding unauthorized access to restricted areas of Avaya’s facilities.
Avaya Government Solutions is a large government contractor located in Fairfax, Virginia. Avaya provides information technology services to various federal government agencies, and its work often involves handling classified information. The contracts Avaya enters into with the federal government often explicitly require that it safeguard that information using varying levels of security clearances, which limit access to certain materials to identified individuals within Avaya. Among the ways that Avaya maintained this differentiation of access was by providing its employees with security badges that afforded them access to different areas of its facilities.
Around August 2010, Avaya changed its method of manufacturing these badges. About a month later, Holowecki was notified by email of an access authorization issue. Holowecki notified his immediate supervisor, Rick Wilmoth, who instructed him to investigate the issue. Holowecki discovered that a particular “top secret” sector of the Avaya facilities, which was only meant to be accessed by 11 individuals, was accessible to 29 individuals. Holowecki and Wilmoth notified Wilmoth’s supervisor, Bill Parkin, and suggested he inform the compromised parties. According to Holowecki, however, Avaya refused to disclose this information to the government agency which had its security compromised. When Holowecki and Wilmoth continued to insist that Parkin act, Holowecki alleged, they were both terminated.
The anti-retaliation provision of the FCA (often referred to as an (h) claim) protects employees from being “discharged, demoted, suspended, threatened, harassed, or in any other manner discriminated against in the terms and conditions of employment by his or her employer” because the employee investigated, reported or sought to stop an employer from engaging in practices which defraud the United States government. If Holowecki succeeds in proving his claim of FCA retaliation, his possible relief includes reinstatement; two times the amount of back pay lost, plus interest; and special damages, including litigation costs and attorneys’ fees.