A whistleblower filed a lawsuit against Walmart today, alleging that the company committed fraudulent and misleading practices in order to thwart competition from Amazon and boost its stock price in the war for e-commerce sales.
In order to keep our country safer from terrorists, the Department of Homeland Security has an ongoing campaign called, "If you see something, say something." Encouraging Americans to report suspicious activities that could lead to widespread destruction makes good sense and could save lives.
Often times when an employee has been terminated, he or she feels as though the termination is wrongful. They may have been treated unfairly or given a reason for their termination that they know to be untrue. Whether or not a termination is wrongful from a legal standpoint, however, involves a different type of analysis.
When an employer directs an employee to engage in illegal activity it puts the employee in an incredibly difficult situation. On one hand, the employee wants to uphold the law, is morally and ethically opposed to what the employer is asking, and naturally would fear the legal consequences of his action. But an equally compelling factor might be the employee's need for the job, the people who depend on him or her to provide a paycheck, and the difficulty of finding gainful employment in this economy. It can seem like a no-win situation.
A whistleblower was awarded six million dollars by a Federal Court jury in Los Angeles today as plaintiff Catherine Zulfer won a hard-fought case against Playboy Enterprises. Zulfer, the former controller for the company and a thirty-year employee, alleged that the company violated the whistleblower-protection provisions of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 when it retaliated against her for refusing to participate in improper accounting practices on the part of the company.
The California Court of Appeal held recently that actions under the California Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA) (Govt. Code § 8547 et seq.) are not subject to compliance with the Government Claims Act (Govt. Code § 900-915.4, 945.4). Cornejo v. Lightbourne (2013) 220 Cal. App. 4th 932. The Goverment Claims Act has a shorter (6 months) deadline for bringing claims than the WPA (12 months).
On January 1, 2014, one of the primary whistleblower statutes will be amended to provide broader protection for whistleblowers in California. Labor Code § 1102.5 will now provide express protection for employees that make internal complaints to their employers about violations of law or, at a minimum, reasonable suspicions of illegal conduct. The internal complaints must be to a person with authority over the employee, such as a manager, foreperson, or supervisor, or another employee who has the authority to investigate, discover, or correct the legal violation or non-compliance with law.
Workers who file complaints with Cal/OSHA are protected from discrimination
I was talking to a friend the other day about a whistleblower I represented in a Medicare billing fraud case. "What's a whistleblower?" she asked. I explained that this is someone who objects to his employer committing crimes. "Oh, you mean a snitch!" As my friend said this I could see the light bulb go off in her head. Well, not exactly I explained.
Barbara Casey, a whistleblower, was terminated by the American Humane Association after 13 years of employment as its Director of Production. Casey urged that HBO and the producers of the Luck television series be reported to law enforcement for animal abuse and cruelty on the set of Luck. HBO aided, abetted and encouraged the American Humane Association's termination of Ms. Casey so that the humane treatment and protection of animals would not interfere with its television production. Casey has filed a complaint in the Los Angeles Superior Court for wrongful termination.