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Milwaukee Employment Law Blog

Whistleblower reports overpriced parts in federal contract

A former assistant controller of a subsidiary of an aircraft company has filed a lawsuit in Milwaukee against her employer after she was terminated. According to the former employee, she was fired as a result of her whistleblower action. According to the woman, her former employer inflated the price for parts sold to the United States government as part of a federal contract.

The plaintiff in the case was originally hired in 2002 as a financial analyst until she became the company's assistant controller for financial reporting and compliance in 2003. The former assistant controller said that the company marked the parts up by 20 percent, despite a provision in a Navy contract saying that the company was required to provide the parts at cost. When the company sent the parts to the government, the invoices did not mention the markup. The plaintiff was responsible for preparing documents regarding the parts between July 2006 and September 2010. She reported the issue to the company, but eventually she reported it to the U.S. government accounting manager when no action was taken.

Former manager sues Moody's for billions

Some investors in Wisconsin might not know that a man who used to be a manager for Moody's Investors Service filed a qui tam complaint against the company after he was fired for blowing the whistle on its practices. The filing was submitted and sealed on Feb. 24, 2012, but after the U.S. government decided not to intervene, the complaint was unsealed on May 30.

According to the complaint, Moody's cost the federal government billions when it untruthfully evaluated collateralized debt obligations and thousands of residential mortgage-backed securities prior to the economic downturn. Most of those securities were issued AAA or similar positive ratings without carrying out objective, independent calculations. Instead, the company issued the ratings based on its profit-maximization policies and conflicts of interest. Moody's is also accused of concealing the basis of the ratings from the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Involuntary wellness program in violation of ADA

On Aug. 20, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit against a Wisconsin company for how it handled its company wellness program. The lawsuit alleges that a woman who was employed by Orion Energy Systems, Inc., was retaliated against and then fired for not participating in the program. According to the EEOC, the company's policy regarding the wellness program was a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The lawsuit alleges that Orion fired one of its employees one month after she opted out of the company wellness program. The program would have required the employee to submit to non-job-related medical exams that included blood draws. When the woman inquired as to whether or not she had a choice in the matter, her managers told her to get rid of her 'attitude" concerning the wellness program.

Disputing denied disability benefits

As some readers in Wisconsin may know, certain individuals are able to seek federal disability benefits. However, even if an employee has adhered to the relevant guidelines for applying for long-term benefits, he or she might still be refused coverage. Many long-term disability benefits policies are handled directly by an employer or purchased as insurance. However, some insurers might not immediately provide benefits to an eligible employee.

Often, a worker seeks disability after suffering in accident or illness that prevents him or her from continuing to work and earn wages. In some cases, the worker might also apply for those benefits while suffering from a chronic condition. If those employees are denied benefits, it might suggest that insurance bad faith exists. In such cases, an insurer might deny both illegitimate and legitimate claims for benefits.

Whistle-blower protections in Wisconsin

Health care employees in Wisconsin may benefit from learning more about the protections for whistle-blowers provided by the state. The protections are guaranteed under the Health Care Worker Protection statute that was introduced in 1999. People who report standard of care violations in good faith are indemnified against retaliation from their employer. Concerns regarding hospital errors and nursing home complaints have been on the rise, as the frequency of each has increased over the past few decades.

Hospital errors has risen to become one of the leading causes of death in America over the past decade. Complaints in nursing home typically involve failure to receive a response from requests for assistance, improper handling of residents leading to accidents, poor resident assessments and care plans, poor administration of medication and inattentiveness to residents. The Department of Workforce Development is responsible for receiving, investigating and resolving allegations made by health care workers in Wisconsin.

What is the FMLA?

Wisconsin employees may want to know some specifics about the Family and Medical Leave Act and whether they are covered by it. This law helps employees to take leave when they have a situation that interferes with their ability to work.

The federal Family and Medical Leave Act is a statute that gives employees the opportunity to take time off from employment, in order to take care of medical issues or to aid a family member. In order to take advantage of this law, either the employee, or certain close family members, must have a serious medical condition. Conditions that qualify include those that involve a hospital stay, chronic medical issues or those that require time off from work with ongoing treatment. Additionally, the birth or adoption of a child can qualify the employee for leave.

New executive order will blacklist certain contractors

Wisconsin employers who have been found guilty of violating certain labor laws may be paying for these violations due to a new executive order. The Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order that was signed on July 31 will require the mandatory disclosure of violations of certain employee rights when a company bids on a federal contract, commencing in 2016.

Pursuant to the executive order, companies will be required to report violations of federal and state employment laws that have occurred within the last three years when they bid on federal contracts. Additionally, they will be required to report any violations upon the award of a federal contract. They will also have the ongoing duty to report violations of certain laws as they complete the work under the contract that they are awarded. Laws covered include the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and others. The contracts that will be impacted by the new executive order are for those that exceed $500,000.

LinkedIn employees to be compensated for unpaid wages

Wisconsin employees will probably be interested to learn that LinkedIn has agreed to pay almost $6 million in back wages and damages to 359 of its employees in California, New York, Nebraska and Illinois. The payments, which average a little more than $16,000 per employee, are designed to compensate the employees for unpaid overtime, according to a statement issued Aug. 4, 2014, by the U.S. Department of Labor.

A spokesperson for LinkedIn said that the Mountain View, California, company was eager to work with the Labor Department to resolve the situation because its number one priority is talent. According to the Labor Department, LinkedIn failed to record all the regular and overtime hours that employees were working. The $5.86 million payment is a combination of $3.35 million for unpaid wages and overtime plus $2.51 million in damages. Additionally, LinkedIn will distribute its policy concerning wages and overtime and provide compliance training.

What protections does the ADA afford employees?

The Americans with Disabilities Act is meant to afford individuals in Wisconsin who are disabled with protection from discrimination in the workplace. Interestingly, the protections offered by the act are not only extended to those who suffer from disabilities. Those who have relationships with a person, such as a worker with a disabled spouse, might also be covered by the act.

According to the language in the ADA, a person's disability cannot be the basis of decisions made regarding employment. For example, an employer is barred from making decisions on hiring, firing, pay and promotions based on a person's disability.

The act also mandates that an employer must provide reasonable accommodation to an employee or prospective employee who is disabled. Additionally, disabled individuals are protected from harassment. While individual incidents are not considered illegal, frequent or particularly harsh incidents might constitute a hostile working environment, which is covered by the act.

Case against Apple may have implications for Wisconsin employers

Apple is facing a lawsuit that claims the company failed to provide adequate opportunities for meals and breaks to its employees. The case states that Apple also failed to pay out final paychecks to employees in an expedient fashion. The suit claims that the practices are widespread throughout its operations.

The lawsuit was originally brought in 2011 but has since been certified as a class-action. At question is whether Apple violated the California Labor Code and Wage Orders, which require that opportunities for meals and breaks be provided to employees within a timely manner. The motion to certify the suit as class-action was granted by the California Superior Court and opens the suit up to being joined by more than 20,000 additional employees.

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