As they do every year, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission released their list of top charges for the previous fiscal year. Between October 2013 and September 2014, nearly 90,000 charges were filed. As it has since fiscal year 2009, retaliation (being punished for being a whistle-blower) was the most common complaint filed, this year making up more than 40 percent of all charges. This is also the most retaliation charges ever filed in one year.
A workplace is expected to be a safe environment, free of corruption in all of its ugly forms. Yet, many people all over the state of Wisconsin work every day in workplaces filled with blackmail, embezzlement, gross waste of funds and other shady business practices. Fearing for their jobs, witnesses often will do and say nothing. It is important to understand, however, that both federal and state laws protect whistle-blowers from losing their jobs.
The Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law in order to protect people with mental or physical handicaps. Under the ADA, employers cannot legally discriminate against someone because they have a disability. It also compels public transportation, telecommunications and government buildings to make their services accessible to those who may have trouble walking, hearing, seeing or are disabled in some other way.
When you are suddenly unable to work, the effects can be devastating if you do not immediately file for disability. Knowing whether you need to file for short-term or long-term disability can be tricky, depending on the circumstances. On one hand, you may feel like you just need to be insured for a few months. On the other hand, you may be unsure just how long it will take to recover. Each have their benefits and drawbacks.
Qui tam actions are lawsuits filed by employees who believe their employers defrauded the government. Such employees are known as whistle-blowers. Without whistle-blowers, many employers would continue to violate the law without facing consequences. The False Claims Act was created to protect whistle-blowers. The Act also outlines specific requirements a whistle-blower must meet to pursue a qui tam action. For example, the Act states that the whistle-blower must be represented by an attorney. One reason for this requirement is that the process of filing a qui tam action is extremely complicated. The investigation process alone involves numerous steps, including subpoenas for records, interviews of witnesses, and expert consultations.
If we step back and look at employer-employee relationships in Wisconsin for the past century, the obvious good news is that through a combination of federal and state legislation passed over the years, as an employee you have more rights and more protections today than ever before. But sometimes this progress can be more than a little confusing. You now have a plethora of statutory and regulatory protections that range from protecting you against discrimination in hiring, to ensuring that you have a safe place to work and are not subject to discrimination on the job, to rights that are available when you have changed family circumstances, and rights against being terminated unfairly.
Wisconsin employees may be interested in learning more about the first-ever whistleblower payment made by the Securities Exchange Commission on April 28. The reward was given as a part of the federal government's new whistleblower rewards initiative. The recipient of the reward was a former hedge trader victimized by retaliation after he reported issues concerning internal conflicts of interests. According to the SEC, the former Paradigm Capital Management trader was also subjected to other unique hardships in addition to the retaliation.
According to some experts, people are frequently failing to file suit against employers for sexual harassment. A representative of the National Women's Law Center has stated that the majority of harassment cases are not reported. These issues show up in both low-level and high-paying jobs, and the reasons for not reporting them are usually due to fear of retaliation, the desire to stay employed in a particular field and a desire to not have their life made public.
The anonymous person who led federal investigators to a "flash crash" trader could collect millions of dollars for the information under the federal whistleblower laws. Under the program created as part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform movement, informants can collect up to 30 percent of the total sanctions if the government is able to collect at least $1 million as a result of these tips. Those who have information on Wisconsin businesses that have engaged in illegal practices may also be eligible for payment under federal whistleblower laws.