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Milwaukee Employment Law Blog

Qualifying for the Family and Medical Leave Act

The Family and Medical Leave Act was designed to provide qualified employees with a way to take unpaid leave, for family or medical reasons, without the fear that they would lose their job. Though this is a fantastic program that benefits many workers in Wisconsin, it is important to learn the facts about the FMLA and discover if you are eligible to take part in this program if you were to find yourself in need.

Employers who are covered under the Family and Medical Leave Act are required to meet specific criteria. This includes meeting one of the following conditions: being a private sector employer with greater than 50 employees who work a minimum of 20 weeks per calendar year, any public agency on the local, state or federal level, regardless of the number of employees and any public or private elementary or secondary school, despite the number of employees. 

Who is covered by federal whistle-blower laws?

A whistle-blower is defined as any individual that brings to light violations or illicit activity performed by an employer or organization. Whistle-blowers across the U.S. and Wisconsin are often subjected to scrutiny and retaliation after bringing their allegations to officials, which may lead the individual or group to seek legal advice. After reporting violations of federal regulations, it is important to know your rights and if you are protected under government whistle-blower laws.

Seventeen statutes outline provisions created by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration are designed to protect whistle-blowers. These cover a wide variety of workers across nearly every industry. In addition to these statutes, there are multiple other acts, including the Whistle-blower Protection Act, and executive orders that are outlined in legislation presented under other agencies outside of OSHA. 

Sorting through the facts to get to truth of whistleblower claim

Reports of an employee becoming a whistleblower without suffering adverse consequences have become much more common with the enactment of state and federal laws, such as the Whistleblower Protection Act, to protect them. Occasionally, though, the facts of a given situation can create a confusing set of circumstances in which an individual fired for creating a danger to public health might be a legitimate whistleblower.

The firing of a Wisconsin paramedic for tampering with narcotic drugs kept on his ambulance might at first appear to be a clear case of local officials identifying a danger to public health and responding to it in an appropriate manner. Facts uncovered by a local media outlet raise questions as to the true motives behind the firing.

Protecting you, and the government, from unscrupulous companies

“Other people’s money.” The phrase carries a subtle meaning, conveying the impression of some that when – especially in situations when those “other people” are the taxpayers of Wisconsin – it is acceptable to be wasteful or even corrupt in handling that money. The federal government deals with budgets and projects that amount to millions and billions of dollars, after all; given such massive scale, some companies that do business with the government cannot resist the temptation to engage in fiscal carelessness or even chicanery.

Fraud, waste and abuse of state and federal government funds hurts everyone. And if you see it happening in the company where you work, you may be torn between the desire to do something about it, and the concern that if you do your employer will make you wish you hadn’t. That is the reason why laws such as the False Claims Act exist: in part to encourage you to “say something” when you “see something,” and also to insulate you from retaliation when you do the right thing by flagging instances of fraud, waste and abuse of government funds in the company where you work.

Fewer disabled Americans employed now than before passage of ADA

It has been a quarter of a century since the Americans with Abilities Act was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush. One of the primary goals of the ADA was to improve employment opportunities for those considered to be disabled under the Act by requiring employers to make reasonable accommodations.

Specifically, the ADA prohibits employers (private and government) with 15 or more employees from discriminating against individuals who are otherwise qualified for a position by making a reasonable accommodation for their employment. The alleged discrimination can take many forms: in the application process, hiring and firing, compensation, training, promotions and advancements, and even perks and benefits of employment. 

Wisconsin company leads whistle-blower claim vs. AT&T

Not every claim under the U.S. False Claims Act (FCA) involves an employee accusing his or her employer of illegal practices that defraud the government. Sometimes a contractor can also act in the capacity of a whistle-blower.

A recent case involving a Wisconsin-based consultant provides an example of how this can work. The consultant works with school districts to assist them with claims that they are being overcharged for telecommunications services. Initially he filed a claim in state against Wisconsin Bell, but later on added an additional lawsuit against its parent company AT&T under the federal FCA. Both whistle-blower lawsuits have overcome legal challenges, including a claim by AT&T that it should not be subject to a lawsuit when its subsidiary is also being sued.

Social security disability insurance faces steep cuts

Millions of people across Wisconsin and the rest of the US depend on their social security disability check every month as their sole income, or at least the majority of it. This kind of social welfare has been a staple in America since it was introduced by Franklin D. Roosevelt, and it has faced its share of opposition. But, if nothing is done soon, the 11 million people who rely on the program could lose about 20 percent of their benefits.

The social security disability fund is running out at what seems the most inopportune time: election season. As such, many politicians do not want to make a move either way on the issue. If nothing is done, benefits could drop from about $1,000 a month to about $800. In addition, benefits will likely not increase with the cost of living this year. 

What is the False Claims Act?

When Wisconsin employees witness wrongdoing in their workplace that defrauds the federal government, they may feel powerless to do anything about it. But U.S. law dictates this couldn’t be further from the truth. Whistleblowers in this situation, called qui tam whistleblowers, are protected by a law passed in 1863.

Also called the “Lincoln Law,” the False Claims Act gives a clear avenue for whistleblowers to report wrongdoing. Certain states like Wisconsin also utilize this law to allow reporting of cheating state and/or local governments out of money or resources.  

Social security disability insurance faces steep cuts

Millions of people across Wisconsin and the rest of the U.S. depend on their social security disability check every month as their sole income, or at least the majority of it. This kind of social welfare has been a staple in America since it was introduced by Franklin D. Roosevelt, and it has faced its share of opposition. But, if nothing is done soon, the 11 million people who rely on the program could lose about 20 percent of their benefits.

The social security disability fund is running out at what seems the most inopportune time: election season. As such, many politicians do not want to make a move either way on the issue. If nothing is done, benefits could drop from about $1,000 a month to about $800. In addition, benefits will likely not increase with the cost of living this year. 

Budget repeals Wisconsin Medicaid whistle-blower provision

The latest state budget includes a surprise for potential whistle-blowers who would seek to report Medicaid fraud under the auspices of the Wisconsin False Claims for Medical Assistance Act: the act has been repealed.

The repeal of the Act, which was enacted in 2007 and modeled on the Federal False Claims Act, was undertaken with little publicity before or after the budget passage. Lawmakers who have been contacted about the repeal have been tight-lipped about it before and after it took effect; no public hearings about the repeal were held in advance, and legislators have either not replied to inquiries about the repeal or have referred to other legislators who have not replied.

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