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March 2012 Archives

Whistle-blowers nab employer for $18.5 million in false claims

In a settlement of two whistle-blower lawsuits, LifeWatch Services, Inc. will pay $18.5 million on claims that it engaged in a practice of presenting false claims for payment through federal medical programs. The company, which provides medical diagnostic testing services in Wisconsin and elsewhere, did not admit blame in reaching the settlement.

Supreme Court: 'State employee, heal thyself on thy own time'

A recent U.S. Supreme Court decision has states and state employees scrambling to update their policy manuals. In Wisconsin, the decision may affect the rights of about 95,000 government employees under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act. The issue is an employee's leave to recover from his or her own serious medical condition.

Proving disability for claimant's with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome ("POTS")

Recently, we were able to secure Social Security Disability benefits for our client with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, or POTS. Based on the medical records and a written submission, benefits were awarded without the need for a hearing by an Administrative Law Judge.

7th Circuit ADA decision won't close interpretation gap with EEOC p3

A three-judge panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals handed down a decision recently that critics say upholds a precedent of the court while it runs counter to a U.S. Supreme Court decision. The case involves the Americans with Disabilities Act and the right of an employee who becomes disabled to a new position within the company. This is just one of many cases that discuss how far an employer must go to provide a reasonable accommodation under the ADA.

7th Circuit ADA decision won't close interpretation gap with EEOC p2

We are continuing our discussion of a recent decision handed down from a three-judge panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The decision has reignited a debate between the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the 7th Circuit, which includes Wisconsin -- a debate that involves other circuits and the U.S. Supreme Court. The issue is whether the Americans with Disabilities Act requires an employer to reassign a worker who has become disabled; the reassignment would be considered a reasonable accommodation.

Video Attorney Alan Olson Supreme Court Oral Argument 3/13/2012

Special thanks to WisconsinEye for its video of Attorney Alan Olson's March 13, 2012 oral argument to the Wisconsin Supreme Court in the breach of employment contract case, DeBruin v. St. Patrickhttp://www.wiseye.org/videoplayer/vp.html?sid=7791

7th Circuit ADA decision won't close interpretation gap with EEOC

A 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel handed down a decision recently that may continue the court's tougher stance on the Americans with Disabilities Act -- if the full court agrees with the decision. The panel stood by the court's precedent, ruling that the ADA does not require an employer to reassign a worker to a vacant position if a disability renders him incapable of continuing in his current position. The 7th Circuit includes Wisconsin, so this decision is binding here.

Whistleblower defeats Medicare fraud (part 2)

This continues our discussion from last week about Odyssey Healthcare's $25,000,000 payment to settle whistleblower claims brought by our client, DR. Odyssey (now purchased by Gentiva) was one of the largest hospice care providers in the country and derived approximately 95% of its net patient revenue from payments it received from Medicare. The Medicare hospice benefit is designed to provide care to terminally ill patients. Hospice nursing care may be covered by Medicare for up to 24 hours-a-day as continuous care during "periods of crisis." However, when fewer than eight hours of care was needed in a 24 hour period, Odyssey was supposed to bill for routine care rather than continuous home care.

Should a Religious Institution be Bound by Its Written Employment Contract?

Should a religious institution be bound by its written employment contract? I argued to the Wisconsin Supreme Court (WSC) yesterday that our client's religious employer should be bound by the terms of a written one-year employment contract, just like any other employer. Our client was a ministerial employee of a church who was fired for reasons other than cause in violation of the "for cause" provision in her employment agreement. The WSC acknowledged during oral argument that this will be a difficult case to decide given the constitutional protection that is afforded to churches against state interference with internal church doctrine. The issue in our case is whether such constitutional protection allows a church to avoid having a civil court enforce a contract that the church voluntarily entered with its employee. The WSC will issue a written opinion in the next 6 months which will decide for the first time whether Wisconsin courts will be permitted to make neutral inquiry into a church's decision to fire a ministerial employee in breach of a written contract.

Milwaukee staffing agency must pay $148,000 to resolve pregnancy discrimination suit

In this day and age, it is hard to believe that there are still businesses and companies that think it is appropriate to discriminate against pregnant women. Sadly, there are, as evidence by a recent case in which a Milwaukee medical-staffing agency had to pay a $148,000 fine to resolve a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit.

Does Southridge's stance on Milwaukee County buses violate the ADA?

The Americans with Disabilities Act has made life a lot easier for many Wisconsin residents. Thanks to this important piece of legislation, employers, landlords and other fixtures of society have to make "reasonable accommodations" for people who have disabilities and are prohibited from discriminating against disabled citizens.

Family Care bill expected to sail through Wisconsin House

It is hard enough to deal with having a loved one, a husband or wife or parent, hurt on the job. If the injury results in a permanent disability, one of the toughest decisions you will have to make is how to ensure that your family member receives the best long-term care possible. Sadly, the question of quality is often overshadowed by the questions of cost -- as helpful as disability benefits are, they seldom make up for all of the lost income.

Judge denies Social Security for claimant's failure to follow doctor's orders

January 2012 image.jpgAdministrative Law Judges for the Social Security Administration are tasked with determining the credibility of claimants who come before them seeking disability benefits. In other words, they are responsible for deciding if a claimant is lying or exaggerating their symptoms in order to get disability benefits.

Whistleblower helps government recover $25M in fraudulent billings (part 1)

Our client, "DR", blew the whistle on her employer, Odyssey Healthcare, for its fraudulent billing for hospice services.  As a result, the United States Attorney's Office recovered $25 million from Odyssey today.  DR was a triage supervisor at Odyssey in charge of training nurses in providing proper hospice care and then accurately coding for the services. In turn, Odyssey submitted false claims to the Medicare program for continuous home care services that were unnecessary or that were not performed in accordance with Medicare requirements between January 2006 and January 2009.  We will discuss more details of this whistleblower suit and the $25M settlement in later posts.

Aging workforce challenges workplace norms

Thanks in part to the recession, an increasing number of older workers in the United States are staying in the workforce. This, however, does not make them immune from the physical deterioration that comes with aging. Reduced physical condition and other adverse effects of aging could make these individuals more susceptible to workplace hazards. In such cases where older workers are injured on the job, long-term disability benefits are a must in order for them to survive.

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