It happens in Milwaukee and it happens in cities and towns across the nation as well. When people blow the whistle on improper or illegal behavior in the workplace, they are often subjected to retaliation by supervisors and employers; retaliation that is expressly prohibited by law.
It is a rare sight these days to see members of the Democratic Party working with members of the Republican Party. While a tumultuous presidential election campaign is underway, a handful of Republicans and Democrats have found an issue on which they have some common ground: Whistleblowers.
Many Wisconsin residents use Bank of America for their various banking needs. On May 16, a female executive with BoA filed a 41-page complaint against the company in Manhattan federal court. In addition to gender discrimination allegations, the 42-year-old executive accused the nation's largest bank of engaging in illegal trading practices and violating whistle-blower protection laws.
A lot of Wisconsin companies require workers to sign confidentiality agreements when they hire them, but this does not prevent workers from reporting legal violations. This is what LifeWatch Services learned on May 9 when a U.S. magistrate dismissed its countersuit against a whistleblower for violating employment and nondisclosure agreements.
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.