Wisconsin residents are likely aware that the German auto maker Volkswagen is facing federal fines that some observers feel could reach nine figures. The manufacturer has admitted to using software designed to help its vehicles cheat federal emissions tests, and a March 7 report suggests that the Wolfsburg-based company have been dealt another legal blow. The reports concern a former Volkswagen worker who claims that he was fired for bringing attention to the illegal deletion of information at a Michigan data center.
At the end of February 2016, a senator from Wisconsin and a congressman from Maryland proposed an act designed to augment legal protections for some whistleblowers. Specifically, the new law, known as the Whistleblower Augmented Reward and Nonretaliation Act, or the WARN Act of 2016, would change other existing laws to provide more rights for people who alert the authorities to misconduct by financial services entities.
Wisconsin residents may know that whistleblower protection laws are in place to encourage individuals to come forward and report malfeasance by their employers by protecting them from retaliation. However, they may not be aware that these protections do not generally apply when the wrongdoing being reported is tax underpayment or tax fraud.
Wisconsin residents who want to stop smoking often rely on nicotine gum or patches to help them cope with intense tobacco cravings. Pharmaceutical companies laud the effectiveness of these products and claim that they have helped millions to overcome nicotine addiction, but a former researcher at a leading drug maker alleges that he was fired from his six-figure job after casting doubt on the veracity of these marketing claims.
Wisconsin professionals and citizens who are considering taking whistleblower action may be interested to learn of multiple developments in 2015 that marked important milestones in how the practice is becoming more acceptable. In November 2015, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission published a report through its Office of the Whistleblower revealing that the agency received almost 4,000 tips during the last fiscal year. This was an increase of 8 percent from the previous fiscal year.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court has ruled on a case that could affect certain allegations of whistle-blower protection laws. The case involved a state Department of Justice employee who was reportedly demoted after informing her bosses that sending bodyguards to protect the state's attorney general at the Republican National Convention in 2008 would be in violation of the law.
People in Wisconsin may want to know about a recent agreement reached by the Federal Aviation Administration and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The agreement, outlined in a memorandum of understanding, defines the roles and duties of each agency in enforcing a federal safety law for air carriers.
Wisconsin residents may be pleased to hear that on Nov. 18, an air marshal who was fired after publicly disclosing Transportation Safety Administration plans to cut back on the number of air marshals on planes in 2003 was awarded nine years of back pay. In May, he had been reinstated in his position after a Supreme Court ruling found that he had not illegally provided information.
Wisconsin whistleblowers who called attention to alleged Medicare fraud may be among those in multiple states who may soon be affected by how or whether US Department of Justice prosecutors can come up with additional evidence to comply with a federal district court judge's order. The judge has stated that she may throw out the whistleblower lawsuit unless the Justice Department can come up with more than expert opinion testimony.
Although Wisconsin provides multiple ways for employees to respond if they believe that they are being discriminated against or retaliated against by their employers in connection with whistleblower activity, there is no single overarching whistleblower statute in this state to cover all circumstances. Instead, Wisconsin law with regard to whistleblower protections is more like a patchwork quilt of multiple statutes that cover specific situations, coupled with certain common-law protections as well as protections under federal law.