Many Wisconsin residents may have heard last week that a whistle-blower has been awarded $104 million for reporting wrongdoings of his former employer UBS. The bank reportedly helped wealthy Americans to hide assets. This award could be largest payout ever given in a whistle-blower case.
When people are injured on the job here in Milwaukee, they may suddenly have several questions about their rights and options. From seeking medical care to navigating the workers' compensation system, to securing time off of work to recuperate, there are many things on the immediate to-do list of the injured worker. The farthest thing from his or her mind should be whether his or her job could be at risk for simply reporting the injury, but unfortunately, that does happen here in Wisconsin and throughout the country.
Here in Wisconsin, and throughout the country, when an employee has knowledge that his or her employer is doing something illegal, the employee is in a very difficult position. The honorable and responsible thing to do is often to report the illegal activity by alerting authorities, but the whistle-blower might then risk being fired or retaliated against by the employer. Of course, it is illegal for the employer to respond in that way, but that does not always stop them.
After many hours of negotiation, a police officer has his job back, along with $240,000 in lost wages. The officer, a 19-year veteran of a police force, says that his professional pride was important in his decision to settle out of court and to accept a significantly lesser amount than his lawyer had initially requested. His whistle-blower lawsuit was a key part of a government scandal that rocked a small town outside of Wisconsin.
There may be irony in Olympus Corp.'s recent announcement, but about 3,000 workers may not see it. The company announced earlier this month that they have reached a multimillion dollar settlement with the former chief executive officer; soon after that came the announcement that Olympus will be eliminating almost 3,000 jobs. The executive claimed he lost his job in retaliation for blowing the whistle on the company's illegal accounting practices.
We are continuing our discussion of a case involving contract workers and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. In a work-for-hire situation, an employee may often feel that he is serving two masters. In some circumstances, that is true. In others, however, the fact that the employee works for the agency and not the company (our terms from our April 12 post) is enormously important.
A recent case heard in federal court raised some interesting issues about contract workers and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. As more and more companies are hiring contractors for short-term and long-term assignments, they are finding themselves facing questions about employment issues such as disability accommodations, leave policies and, as in this case, retaliation.
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.
More and more, companies are hiring contract employees for short- and long-term projects. Contract workers can be less expensive and a little easier to manage. It is, for example, much easier to let go of a contractor than it is to discharge a full-time employee. But maintaining the line between contractor and employee can be tricky at times. The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently handed down a decision that either clarified or muddied that distinction for employers.
Most Wisconsin jetsetters would find it hard to believe that a pilot could be fired for ensuring the safety of passengers aboard flights. Nevertheless, a recent story discusses the firing of an employee who was concerned about flight-related mechanical equipment.