Wisconsin residents have undoubtedly heard that one of the factors that experts have said contributed to the recession was a growing number of questionable loans being made by large banks. A credit audit specialist employed by Morgan Stanley began to notice that the lending standards at the institution were declining after 2004. Now, the whistleblower says that when he attempted to bring this to the attention of his superiors, he suffered a campaign of retaliation.
It's rarely easy for employees to make the decision to file whistleblower suits against the companies for which they work. Many understandably fear that they will have to face retaliation from their employers. However, Wisconsin and federal law provide protections for a whistleblower claim, especially when it has to do with the False Claims Act. Under this law, those who hold government contracts can face lawsuits filed by citizens on behalf of the government if the citizens can show evidence of fraud.
When an employee has a sense of loyalty to the company with which he or she works, it can be difficult to admit that there may be some wrongdoing or inaccurate information being circulated. Should an employee, including those in Wisconsin, feel that there is information that needs to be corrected, they could be deemed a whistleblower and face retaliation from employers or co-workers. Company reputations can be damaged if it is found out that false claims were made, and they may wish to take measures to ensure that negative publicity does not circulate.
A former project manager at Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC) has come forward as a whistleblower. As some in Wisconsin may already know, under the False Claims Act, whistleblowers are given a portion of any funds recovered as a result of a successful investigation. In this man's case, he received somewhere in the neighborhood of $1.88 million.
We discuss the federal False Claims Act quite a bit in this Milwaukee Employment Law Blog. The False Claims Act allows citizens to file lawsuits on behalf of the government against individuals and organizations that are defrauding the government. The qui tam provision of the False Claims Act allows these whistle-blowers to share in any financial recovery that results from the lawsuit. The False Claims Act is a very important federal statute, and Congress has been pushing states to enact similar state false claims laws, too.
One very important right of workers here in Wisconsin and throughout the U.S. is the right to voice workplace safety concerns without the fear of retaliation. Employees need to be able to express their concerns about workplace hazards and safety threats so that the employer, or authorities, can be aware of any issues that may endanger workers or patrons.
Basketball fans and non-basketball fans alike in Wisconsin heard this week that Rutgers University fired its basketball coach, Mike Rice, after a video surfaced showing the coach mistreating players.
Last week we discussed the 20th anniversary of the federal Family and Medical Leave Act and discussed some of the shortfalls of the law. One issue with the FMLA is that in some workplaces, it is only acceptable for women to take job-protected leaves for the birth of a child and not for men to do so. The law makes no such distinction, however many employers here in Wisconsin may be intimidating new fathers and discouraging them from taking advantage of their federal family leave rights.
When employers learn of sexual harassment in their places of employment, they are bound by federal law to immediately take an effective action to put a stop to it. When employers fail to respond appropriately to reports of sexual harassment, they can be held accountable and they may be liable for damages to victims.