Court dismisses counterclaim against whistleblower

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.

The certified LifeWatch technician conducted heart monitoring assessments and looked for dangerous or unusual heart arrhythmias. He passed the results to the patients’ cardiologists to use in their diagnoses and heart treatments. The employee signed a privacy agreement in 2003, when the company first hired him, agreeing not to use any confidential data from the company during his employment or after for himself and not to disclose information to any non-employee of LifeWatch. The worker also signed an HIPAA nondisclosure statement in 2006.

Later, the employee became worried that the company was giving some of its heart monitoring work to non-certified Indian workers, violating Medicare regulations. In 2012, he believed that an offshore unlicensed technician gave a wrong diagnosis that caused the death of a patient. This is when he filed a federal False Claims Act suit. He gave some LifeWatch records to his attorney, and the information was passed on to the government.

When the government decided to intervene and the lawsuit was unsealed, LifeWatch found out that the employee had filed and responded with a countersuit. The company argued that the worker violated the employment and non-disclosure agreements that he signed years before. However, the magistrate dismissed the case, recognizing that although it is legitimate for businesses to safeguard private details, they must not keep employees from reporting fraud.

Filing a qui tam lawsuit might be difficult for many workers because they are afraid of retaliation when their employers find out who filed. These workers might be able to ease their concerns by taking the issue to attorneys and learning more about the process and how to proceed.

Source: The National Law Review, “High-Profile VA Whistleblower Settles Retaliation Claim Through Mediation,” Brian Mahany, May 13, 2016

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