from the United States District Court for the Southern
District of Georgia D.C. Docket No. 6:14-cv-00094-LGW-GRS
ED CARNES, Chief Judge, BRANCH, and TJOFLAT, Circuit Judges.
CARNES, CHIEF JUDGE
case turns on what Congress meant when it said "because
of" in the antiretaliation provision of the False Claims
Act, 31 U.S.C. § 3730(h)(1). When we interpret the text
of a statute, "we must presume that Congress said what
it meant and meant what it said." United States v.
Steele, 147 F.3d 1316, 1318 (11th Cir. 1998) (en banc);
accord, e.g., Conn. Nat'l Bank v.
Germain, 503 U.S. 249, 253-54 (1992); In re
Thompson, 939 F.3d 1279, 1285 (11th Cir. 2019). Because
of our obligation to presume that "because of"
means "because of" and not something else, we
affirm the judgment of the district court.
plaintiff, Jamie Nesbitt, started working as an emergency
medical technician for Candler County's ambulance service
in 2006. Several years later one of his coworkers, Donald
Greer, was promoted to be the new deputy director of the
ambulance service. That was when Nesbitt's problems
grew concerned about how Greer was instructing him and other
staff members to fill out certain paperwork. Part of his job
as an EMT was to complete a "trip report" after
each ambulance ride to document the condition of the patient
and the medical necessity of the ambulance service. Medicare
relies on those reports when deciding whether to pay for the
service. The narrative section of a trip report is especially
important for billing purposes.
According to Nesbitt, when Greer became the deputy director
he started pressuring the EMTs to write in their report
narratives that patients were unable to walk, even if they
could. That way Medicare would pay for more trips. Nesbitt
believed that Greer was asking him to commit fraud, so he
began complaining to Greer himself and other County
Nesbitt started complaining, Greer changed his schedule.
Ordinarily the County EMTs worked two 24-hour shifts per week
and were on call for two additional 24-hour days. The on-call
days gave the EMTs a chance to pick up more overtime hours.
Greer started putting Nesbitt on call for only the first half
of a day instead of for the full 24 hours, which meant less
Greer's approval, Nesbitt began working another job at a
private ambulance company called Meddixx. The County had a
policy prohibiting EMTs from working side jobs without the
approval of the ambulance service director. Greer was not the
director, David Moore was. Nesbitt assumed that Moore somehow
knew about his other job, but there's no evidence that
Moore did know about it, much less that he approved it.
County fired Nesbitt in 2014. The five-member Board of
Commissioners had the sole authority to hire and fire County
employees. Usually when an employee was fired, the County
Administrator or a department head would make the termination
recommendation to an individual Board member, who would
present the recommendation to the full Board. The Board would
then discuss the recommendation and vote on it.
and Moore started the process to terminate Nesbitt. They met
with the County Administrator, William Lindsey, and told him
that they wanted to fire Nesbitt because he would not follow
orders and had violated the County's policy on side jobs.
The Board voted to terminate Nesbitt's employment, and
after that, Moore and Greer called him into Greer's
office and told him that he no longer worked for the County.
They gave him a letter stating that he had been fired for two
reasons: his unauthorized job with Meddixx and his refusal to
fill out trip reports in "the proper way." Doc.
August 2014 Nesbitt filed suit under the False Claims Act, 31
U.S.C. §§ 3729-3731, and the Georgia False Medicaid
Claims Act, Ga. Code Ann. §§ 49-4-168-168.6,
alleging that the County had engaged in a fraudulent scheme
related to billing for ambulance services and had fired him
in retaliation for his whistleblowing. In June 2016 the
United States intervened and reached a settlement with the
County and Nesbitt. As part of the settlement, Nesbitt and
the government voluntarily dismissed the fraud claims, but
Nesbitt's False Claims Act retaliation claim moved
forward. In granting summary judgment for the County on that
claim, the district court concluded that ...