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.
The law typically protects state employees from retaliation when they report illegal or unsafe activities. These activities include violating the law, endangering the public, abuse of authority at the state or local level or wasting public funds.
Wisconsin workers may be interested in a case involving an unidentified individual who received a $30 million award from the Securities and Exchange Commission under the agency's whistle-blower program. In a statement announcing the award, a spokeswoman for the SEC only said that the person was located outside of the United States. In its statement, the SEC would not name the company or the individual who committed the fraud.
Wisconsin residents might be interested to learn about a settlement that was reached in a false country of origin lawsuit involving medical device manufacturer Smith & Nephew. On Sept. 3, the London-based company agreed to settle a lawsuit with the U.S. government by paying $11.3 million in damages. In 2008, the company was accused of selling Malaysian-made orthopedic devices to the Department of Veterans Affairs and falsely claiming they were made in the United States.