Employees in Wisconsin may benefit from understanding more about the settlement reached between Southwest Airlines and a whistleblower mechanic. The employee claims he was disciplined for reporting cracks he discovered in a Boeing 737-700's fuselage, and filed a lawsuit for whistleblower protections established by the AIR-21 statute. On Jan. 8, a settlement was approved by a Department of Labor Administrative Judge who granted the summary judgment motion filed by the mechanic, and dismissed the airline's motion.
As some Wisconsin workers have found, employees who see and report unsafe conditions or activities might find that negative actions have been taken against them by an employer. If this happens, the employee may have the ability to file a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Wisconsin workers may be familiar with the term "whistleblower," which refers to a person who blows the whistle on an employer who is engaged in illegal activity. One type of whistleblower action that an employee may bring against an employer is a qui tam action. Qui tam actions are lawsuits alleging that the government has suffered harm at the hands of an individual or a corporation that filed false claims. The False Claims Act, a federal law, incentivizes individuals to alert the government of such illegal conduct by offering individuals a percentage of any award that results from the lawsuit being successfully prosecuted.
Wisconsin workers employed in the food industry may be interested in the protection they have under federal law if they should bring an issue of concern forward. Those who are engaged in the processing, packing, distribution or holding of food, among other activities, are protected from retaliation if they highlight a violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.
In the summer of 2014, United Airlines, which has flights serving several Wisconsin cities, fired 13 flight attendants for refusing to fly on a trip from San Francisco to Hong Kong. The reason for the crew's refusal to fly was an ominous message and drawings that had been scrawled into the dirt on the plane that was to make the flight.
A former Baltimore Police Department detective filed a whistle-blower lawsuit against the department, the former police commissioner and his supervisor on Dec. 22 in federal court in Baltimore. The detective, who reported an assault on a drug suspect by two fellow officers to the Baltimore City State's Attorney's Office in 2012, alleges that his fellow officers began a pattern of harassment, threats and retaliation against him when he agreed to testify against the two officers at their subsequent trial.
People in Wisconsin may be interested in the outcome of the huge Bank of America and Countrywide whistle-blower case that was settled in August 2014. According to unsealed court documents, three individual whistle-blowers and one small New Jersey mortgage company were awarded $170 million as part of Bank of America's $17 billion settlement in relation to the case. The man who initially blew the case open, a former property appraisal company employee, will receive $56 million, while a former Countrywide executive will receive $58 million. A former Countrywide manager will receive $48 million, and the mortgage company will receive $8.5 million.
A recent former paralegal for Sanofi SA, a French drug maker, claims that she was fired after objecting to an alleged bribing strategy to sell more insulin medications in the United States. Drug manufacturer employees in Wisconsin might have heard about the reportedly illegal activity.
The False Claims Act was originally instituted during the Civil War to protect the Union Army from malicious military contractors and has been amended many times since. Any person may file an action under the FCA, and Wisconsin residents dealing with business that involve the government or an agency that works with the government may benefit from being familiar with its basic principles.
A recent federal appellate court ruling in a whistle-blower case has the potential to affect how Wisconsin and other states handle whistle-blower discrimination and retaliatory discharge claims. In its ruling, the court overturned a district court's decision to dismiss a whistle-blower claim. The appeals court also ruled the whistle-blower has a right to a jury trial on his claim.