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Milwaukee Employment Law Blog

Lesson learned: teacher prevails in racial discrimination lawsuit

It is about a three-hour, 200-mile drive from the southwestern corner of Wisconsin to the northeastern corner of Missouri. Our states aren't separated by great geographic or philosophical distances. Their state's Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex, disability or age. Wisconsin's Fair Employment Law is similar, though a bit broader.

It's worth noting the similarities in the aftermath of a Missouri jury's recent verdict in a race discrimination lawsuit. The jury ordered that the plaintiff receive $100,000 more in punitive damages than her attorneys had requested. The former teacher is to receive $4.35 million after being fired because she is white.

Celebration muted on anniversary of federal age discrimination protection

When married couples reach their 50th anniversary, family and friends gather in celebration of the golden event. Few people are organizing parties to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the passing of the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act, however.

Recognition of the landmark 1967 legislation might be muted because employees today can still face age discrimination in the workforce, an employment law attorney wrote recently in a newspaper column.

Whistleblower's reward for stopping fraud: $2.9 million

When he filed his whistleblower lawsuit, Vladimir Trakhter was not a high-powered executive privy to inside information about former employer Olympia Therapy Inc. He was a physical therapist assistant at the Ohio health care company back in 2008 when he began noticing disturbing behavior: the company was submitting claims to Medicare for rehabilitation therapy services that patients did not need.

Worse, he saw that some patients sustained injuries when they were forced to do therapies that their bodies could not tolerate. Because Trakhter filed a whistleblower lawsuit under the False Claims Act, the scheme by Olympia executives has been stopped. The company recently agreed to a settlement for $19.5 million; a deal that includes payment to Trakhter for $2.9 million.

Supreme Court softens age discrimination protections

The average age of U.S. Supreme Court justices is 69. All have lifetime appointments to the highest court in the land, so it is possible that they are not as concerned with age discrimination as many other older Americans.

According to a recent Forbes article, the justices recently made it more likely that fewer age discrimination claims will be pursued in the nation's courts, even though "age discrimination is widespread, well documented and, sadly, deeply entrenched in the American workplace."

Hospice Firm Settles Medicare Fraud Lawsuit Founded on Kickbacks

Since 1983, Medicare has provided benefits for eligible terminally ill patients under The Medicare Hospice Benefit program, according to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. The use of these services has increased in recent years, with Medicare reimbursements for hospice care exceeding $15 billion in 2015.

Palliative care under the program is intended only for patients who have six months or less to live. Services are tailored to the individual needs of each patient and are intended to allow terminally ill patients to maintain dignity. Pain management, reducing the impact of symptoms -- as well as spiritual or emotional counseling -- are the goals of the medical protocol, rather than efforts to prolong life.

Allergan settles False Claims Act litigation for $13 million

It is well-known that pharmaceutical companies often provide payments for consulting and promotional speaking to doctors likely to use or prescribe the company's devices or medications. Some critics of the practice consider the payments to be a form of bribery, while others defend the practice as a way for physicians to become familiar with products that can benefit patients.

Pharmaceutical giant Allergan PLC recently settled a whistleblower lawsuit for $13 million. The lawsuit was filed by two ophthalmologists who accused the company of paying physicians for speaking engagements and consulting as a way to induce them to prescribe Allergan products.

Age, gender, race discrimination can happen to anyone

Old sayings are often rooted in truth. "You can't judge a book by its cover" is one of these sayings, and it has been repeated for decades.

The adage comes to mind when reading the story of a plaintiff in a lawsuit alleging discrimination on the basis of race, gender and age. The proverbial "book" in this case is a white man and former manager. Based on stereotype alone, one might think he would be named as a defendant in employment discrimination litigation. The assumption would be incorrect.

$20 million settlement in False Claims Act lawsuit

People who work in accounting and billing are often chided and teased about being numbers-driven, quiet people. Breaking the mold, two women who worked in accounts receivable recently made big legal noise. 

Both women worked for seven years for a firm that supplies in-home oxygen equipment. Together, they filed a lawsuit under the False Claims Act and settled for $20 million, according to a news report. Along with two co-workers, the pair of women will split $11 million from the settlement, the report states.

Despite court ruling, LGBT workplace rights secure in Wisconsin

Thirty-five years ago, Wisconsin became the very first state to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The law signed by Gov. Lee S. Dreyfus made it unlawful for an employer in our state to discriminate against you in matters such as hiring, firing, promotions and raises.

Though LGBT rights are protected, those rights are not as clearly secured elsewhere. Take, for example, Mississippi, where a law allows merchants and government workers to deny services to same-sex couples. A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals just ruled that the law can stand, though an appeal of the decision is expected.

What is a Qui Tam Lawsuit? And who benefits?

Office workers in the pharmaceutical industry, employees of companies that do business with the government - and more and more frequently today billing professionals, nurses or other healthcare workers - may notice anomalies or excesses in bills sent to the United States government. Medicaid and Medicare provide substantial sums of money as reimbursement to hospitals, doctor's offices, clinics and other healthcare resources each year.

As we have discussed in February, the health care industry leads all sectors in fraud claims under the federal False Claims Act. In general, it is workers who bring evidence of fraud to light in these types of issues. The False Claims Act dates back to the Civil War when the government grew concerned about receiving shoddy products from entrepreneurs. The False Claims Act was created to root out fraud in government contracts. 

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