Whistleblowing protections are cut and dry. If you see something illegal occurring and you report it to any type of authority – whether it’s to local law enforcement or a federal anti-fraud organization – and you are threatened, reprimanded, fired or punished in any way by your employer as a result, then you have been wronged, and are eligible to file suit against the offending party.

Protections exist for whistleblowers because, were they not in place, those who witness or are aware of criminal behavior would have no incentive to report these actions, and would have no protection from retaliation against them if they chose to do the right thing anyways.

Any individual can blow the whistle on any type of illegal behavior, whether it’s on a massive scale or a micro scale. No matter how big the crime, or the number of victims, the same protections apply.

The United States’ biggest whistleblowing protection agencies are housed within the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC). The IRS provides protection for those who blow the whistle on crimes involving tax fraud, while the SEC protects whistleblowers who report acts of fraudulent securities practices, such as insider stock trading and malicious stock practices.

Not only is it the right thing to do…

Providing information that leads to a successful investigation and, in most cases, criminals winding up in custody, is not only the right thing to do morally – it can also be incredibly lucrative for the whistleblower.

Since 2007, the IRS Whistleblower Office has helped the IRS collect $3.4 billion in may otherwise have been totally lost revenue due to tax fraud and other illicit tax activity. In turn, the IRS has awarded over $465 million in rewards to whistleblowers who helped them collect this revenue. Similarly, the SEC has awarded over $111 million in whistleblowing rewards since their program began in 2011.

To be rewarded for whistleblowing, you simply have to provide credible, accurate information that aids investigators in rooting out a criminal activity. There are stipulations and conditions for each the IRS and the SEC whistleblowing programs, which you can learn more about HERE and HERE.

Providing protections helps ensure whistleblowers are comfortable reporting illicit actions, but providing monetary awards actually incentivizes whistleblowers to speak up when they have proof of criminal activity. Continue reading

Addiction to opioid pain killers has reached epidemic proportions in recent years. Many blame the problem on pharmaceutical companies and doctors who are too quick to prescribe these highly-addictive drugs. Recent news may uphold this belief.

On Thursday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that more than 400 individuals are facing criminal charges for their involvement in fraud and opioid scams totaling $1.3 billion. Sessions called it the “largest health care fraud takedown operation in American history.” He went on to say that this level of fraud shows that certain healthcare professionals “have chosen to violate their oaths and put greed ahead of their patients.”

Strips Clubs for Prescriptions

In one particular scam, six Michigan doctors allegedly wrote unnecessary prescriptions for opioids. If that isn’t disturbing enough, a rehab facility in Florida is accused of using gift cards, casino trips and visits to strip clubs to entice addicts to move to Palm Beach, resulting in about $58 million in fraudulent treatments. A Boston whistleblower attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you have unique information about healthcare fraud.

Of the 400 charged, at least 120 were involved in the illegal prescription and distribution of opioids – the same opioids that killed more than 52,000 Americans in 2015. And fatalities continue to rise. “In some cases, we had addicts packed into standing-room-only waiting rooms waiting for these prescriptions,” said Andrew McCabe, acting FBI director. “They are a death sentence, plain and simple.”

Those charged are facing criminal penalties stemming from allegations that they illegally billed Medicare and Medicaid for drugs that, in some cases, were never even purchased. In other cases, drugs were given to patients unnecessarily so that doctors and clinics could benefit financially. “They seem oblivious to the disastrous consequences of their greed. Their actions not only enrich themselves, often at the expense of taxpayers, but also feed addictions and cause addictions to start,” said Sessions. And the attorney general believes many more cases will come out of this.

United States Leads the World in Opioid Prescriptions

According to Chuck Rosenberg, acting administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration, four out of five new heroin addicts started with opioids. The United States prescribes more opioids than any other country, by a long shot. “In West Virginia, one firefighter revived the same young lady three times in one day. That’s a system that is failing that individual,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. States with high rates of addiction cases, however, fear that healthcare legislation to combat this problem would result in Medicaid cuts, worsening the problem for addicts who are covered by the program.

Blow the Whistle

A whistleblower is someone who exposes illegal, unethical, or fraudulent activity within an organization, company, or government entity. The federal government encourages whistleblowers to come forward with this information. So much so, in fact, that whistleblowers may receive up to 30 percent of funds recovered through such a process. Considering that recoveries are often in the tens of millions, whistleblower payouts can be quite substantial. The federal government also protects whistleblowers from retaliation through the Whistleblower Protection Act. A MA whistleblower attorney can help you understand your rights and options if you have unique information about healthcare fraud. Continue reading

The Customs and Border Protection Agency (CBP) is stepping up its efforts to identify violations of customs laws, such as anti-dumping and trade tariff evasion. The agency will receive $300 million for the hiring of additional staff, and whistleblowers are being incentivized to come forward with information about fraud and other violations. Considering that whistleblowers can receive up to 30 percent of recovered funds, and that these recoveries can be in the tens of millions, you may stand to receive a substantial payout if you have unique information about such violations.

Multiple customs tariff whistleblower lawsuits have been filed in the past two years. These cases typically involve companies that are attempting to evade duties on imports from other countries. For example, Univar, a global distribution company, was caught masking the origin of saccharine imports from China to avoid high anti-dumping duties. To do so, the company had the product re-packaged and labeled in Taiwan before shipping to its final destination in the U.S.

In other cases, companies may attempt to misrepresent the type of goods to declare them under a classification with a lower duty. A MA whistleblower attorney can help you determine how to move forward if you have information about customs tariff evasion, or similar illegal activity.

Customs Border Patrol Agents Need Help

Whistleblowers actually play a significant role in preventing fraud and evasion of import and export duties. Massive ships with hundreds of shipping containers on board come into the United States every day. Customs agents conduct inspections, but they can’t inspect every container on every ship, train, and truck. Even less so now that a major portion of their time is dedicated to fighting drug trafficking and terrorism. In fact, Customs and Border Patrol agents are expected to inspect less than two percent of the more than 20,000 containers slated for entry into the U.S. this year alone.

Federal False Claims Act Protections

The federal False Claims Act protects whistleblowers and encourages these “original sources” to report fraud and other illegal activity by filing a claim. These claims are also referred to as qui tam lawsuits. The Whistleblower Protection Program ensures that people who disclose allegations of certain activities are protected from retaliation. According to the Act, whistleblowers who report the following violations are protected:

  • Violations of laws, rules, or regulations
  • Any type of mismanagement
  • The wasting of funds
  • The abuse of authority
  • A serious danger to public safety or health

The Importance of Whistleblowers

Thanks to whistleblowers, the federal government has been made aware of countless activities that could have a negative impact on the safety and health of the general public. Whistleblowers can be financially rewarded for reporting illegal activity in many industries, including pharmaceutical sales, defense, education, and finance, among others. A Boston whistleblower lawyer can help you file a qui tam lawsuit if you are aware of fraudulent or illegal activity in any of these industries. Continue reading

Do you believe that you are being discriminated against at work? Is the discrimination due to your race, or the color of your skin? In 2017, racial discrimination still occurs with shocking frequency. Unfortunately, proving it isn’t always an easy task. The article below provides tips on the different types of racial discrimination and how to substantiate your case. An experienced Boston employment law attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you are being discriminated against at work.

Direct Discrimination

This is the easiest type of discrimination to recognize. When an employer, supervisor or co-worker makes obviously racist remarks with no attempt at hiding their intent, this is direct discrimination. This is the easiest type to prove, but it’s also quite rare. Knowing the consequences, few people will make blatantly racist jokes and comments in the workplace. But it does happen from time to time.

Indirect Discrimination

This type of discrimination is more common. For example, if everyone gets a bonus except Bob, who happens to be black, the employer may claim that it’s because Bob is too new. Is that racial discrimination, or is Bob actually too new for a bonus? The good news is, the answer can usually be discovered with a bit of leg work, including research of employment policies and the company’s past handling of similar situations. A MA employment law attorney can help you uncover the evidence necessary to back up your claim.

Harassment

Consider the following example of racial harassment: Dave is Asian. Dave is constantly scolded in front of his co-workers for not leaving his workspace clean when he heads home for the day. At first Dave thinks his employer must be a perfectionist, and he begins emptying his trash bin twice a day, wiping dust off his computer screen, and washing out his personal coffee mug every evening. But the scoldings continue. When Dave looks around, he realizes that his cubicle is far cleaner than any other cubicle at his place of employment. Is Dave being harassed because of his race? It’s very possible.

What Discriminatory Practices are Prohibited?

If you experience discrimination related to any of the following aspects of employment, you are protected under Title VII of the ADA, GINA, and the ADEA.

  • Hiring process
  • Terminations and layoffs
  • Compensation
  • Job postings
  • Promotions
  • Transfers
  • Testing
  • Training
  • Retirement plans, benefits, and disability

Continue reading

Blogger Susan Fowler recently published an account of her time working at the world’s most successful startup, Uber. It wasn’t positive. The tech giant has been battling accusations of sexual harassment and other damaging reports this past year, but Fowler’s claim was especially concerning; her supervisor propositioned her for sex on the very day she joined his team.

And the claims don’t stop there. Fowler also wrote that HR employees treated her with hostility, and male employees were given free leather jackets while their six female counterparts were excluded. Up until recently, claims of sexual harassment, misogyny and gender discrimination in the tech industry were often downplayed. But the resignation of Uber CEO Travis Kalanick on Tuesday night is evidence that times are quickly changing, and the tech world is no longer an exception. A Boston employment law attorney can help you determine how to move forward if you’ve been the victim of workplace sexual harassment.

“Moving Uber Forward”

According to reports, Kalanick’s resignation was driven by several of Uber’s major investors. Five individuals came together and composed a letter, which they titled “Moving Uber Forward,” demanding the CEO’s immediate resignation. In a statement to the New York Times, Kalanick said, “I love Uber more than anything in the world and at this difficult moment in my personal life I have accepted the investors [sic] request to step aside so that Uber can go back to building rather than be distracted with another fight.” Prior to his resignation, Kalanick oversaw the firing of 20 employees accused of sexual harassment. But it wasn’t enough. Fowler’s courageous choice to make her mistreatment public may have changed how gender bias and sexual harassment are handled in the workplace, especially with regard to the tech industry.

Money Talks

The Uber investors responsible for ousting Kalanick had invested billions into the tech superpower; they didn’t want to risk their investment. For them, the only way to turn around a year’s worth of negative press was to get rid of the guy who was steering the sinking ship. As they say in business, no press is bad press, and Uber’s recent actions are likely to dominate the headlines and restore its formerly-positive (or at least not negative) reputation. A MA employment law attorney can help you recover damages if you’ve been a victim of workplace sexual harassment.

The Ultimate Boycott

Beyond claims of sexual harassment and gender discrimination, Kalanick’s resignation may also remove the perceived link between Uber and Donald Trump. Several months ago, Uber lost customers when over 200,000 of them deleted the app following a controversy related to the president’s proposed travel ban affecting seven predominantly-Muslim countries. “For some people looking to dump Uber, the #deleteUber campaign simply sealed the deal,” read one headline. The extent of Kalanick’s connection to this controversy remains unknown, but when it comes to PR, perception is everything. Continue reading

If you were terminated from your job but you are owed commission payments, what are your rights? And what are the employer’s rights? There are specific requirements for receiving your last paycheck following termination, but are commission payments included in that check? Read on for more information about commission payments and the variables that may affect how, or if, they’re paid out following employment termination.

Commission payments usually follow a certain schedule. For example, if you sell 50 widgets to Company A, you will likely provide a time frame within which Company A has to pay for their widgets. Maybe it’s 15 days, maybe 30, maybe 60.  Payment is rarely received when the sale is negotiated. Let’s say Company A has 30 days to pay for their widgets, but they find cheaper widgets somewhere else and cancel their order with you. If you had already received a commission payment on those widgets, this could present a serious problem. For this reason, commissions are rarely paid to employees until full payment has been received.

Factors Affecting Commission Payments

Whether or not you are owed a commission payment after termination is dependent on several factors. These include:

  • Terms within your contract
  • Your level of involvement in generating the sale
  • Circumstances of the sale and your termination

Unless there is an agreement to the contrary, if the commission was earned prior to the date of the termination, the employer will likely be obligated to pay. If, however, the commission was not earned by the date of the termination, but the sales process has been initiated, the policy will be dictated by past practices. It is important to keep in mind, however, that the waters can get a bit muddy if the employee was fired for cause. That doesn’t mean that no commissions can be paid…it just makes things more complicated.

The Contract

If compensation is entirely or partially commission based, there should exist a clear commission schedule between the employee and employer. This payment schedule should include information about when commissions are paid on a closed sale, the impact of renegotiated or canceled sales, and guidelines for handling commission payments following termination. By reviewing this contract, a MA employment law attorney can help you determine if, how much, and when commissions should be paid. If you are still employed and you do not have a contract with clear commission policies, you should request one to avoid serious headaches in the future.

Save Emails

If you have exchanged emails with your supervisor, human resources, or anyone within your company prior to your termination, save these emails. Just as they say “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” what seems to you like an insignificant email could be a gold mine. Don’t delete. A Boston employment law attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’re owed commission payments following a termination. Continue reading

In a particularly challenging year for Uber, the company behind the driver-for-hire app has terminated over 20 employees in an effort to deal with accusations of sexual harassment and other issues. On Tuesday, Uber made an internal announcement to its 12,000 employees about the decision, following a long list of complaints from former employees.

215 Workplace Incidents

According to reports, a total of 215 claims of workplace incidents have been filed against Uber. The breakdown of these complaints, in order of frequency, is as follows:

  • Discrimination
  • Sexual harassment
  • Unprofessional behavior
  • Bullying
  • Other types of harassment
  • Retaliation
  • Physical security
  • Wrongful termination

An internal investigation into these claims is currently underway. Since the investigation began, Uber has fired 20 employees, and another seven have received a final warning. According to the ride-hailing tech giant, 57 claims are still under review and no action is being taken in 100 of the claims. A Boston employment law attorney can help you determine how to move forward if you’ve been a victim of workplace sexual harassment.

Blogging about Harassment

Most of the complaints originated in the company’s San Francisco headquarters, but complaints have come from Uber locations across the globe. Following former employee Susan Fowler’s claims on her blog that she experienced gender bias and sexual harassment while working for Uber, the company’s CEO, Travis Kalanick, launched the internal investigation.

The news of the firings is just the most recent in a string of scandals that have been plaguing Uber for months. Earlier this year, the company’s senior vice president of engineering was asked to resign when Uber discovered that he hadn’t disclosed past allegations of sexual harassment. Ed Baker, another Uber exec, left the company abruptly under unknown circumstances in March.

Technology Theft and Bad Business Practices

And that’s not all. Google’s self-driving car company, Waymo, has brought a lawsuit against Uber, accusing the company of stealing its technology. As a result, Anthony Levandowski, an Uber engineer who had previously worked for Google, was fired last month. Beyond the lawsuits and allegations of workplace misconduct, Uber is also battling an image of bad business practices, such as the use of a tool designed for the purpose of evading regulators.

Is Uber in Denial?

“(Fowler’s) blog shocked me,” said Liane Hornsey, the head of Uber’s HR. “But, what did surprise me, was when I did the listening sessions, this didn’t come up as an issue. It wasn’t one of our big themes. Other things came up that are in that area, that our values are masculine and a little aggressive, but the harassment issue, I just didn’t find that at all.” A MA employment law attorney can help you recover damages if you’ve been harassed in the workplace.

Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Uber is far from the only company with sexual harassment issues. This type of inappropriate workplace behavior is actually quite common. A study of 500 respondents and 92 U.S. companies produced the following results:

  • Approximately 54 percent (272) of respondents had been the victim of some type of workplace sexual harassment.
  • Of those, 27 percent had experienced harassment by a colleague, and 17 percent were harassed by a
  • Women made up the majority of harassment victims at 79 percent.
  • Of those harassed, 12 percent claim to have received threats of termination if they refused the advances and requests of their harassers.

Continue reading

If you are a public employee, and you believe that your employer may have broken the law, or is otherwise in violation of a rule or regulation, that puts the public health or safety at risk, you should feel comfortable reporting it without fear of any backlash from your employer (from a legal standpoint, at least). According to Massachusetts law, these “whistleblowing” actions should always keep the employee who is reporting the violation protected from termination, suspension, demotion, and any adverse employment action being taken by the employer in response.

In addition to protection from their state government, whistleblowers are protected through the federal government, which has several safeguards in place to ensure that a whistleblower’s future at the company is not at risk, despite reporting an employer’s violation of the law. The United States Department of Labor, through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), has what is known as “The Whistleblower Protection Program”. This is designed to operate as a guide for anyone engaging or considering engaging in whistleblowing activity to know how to do everything from start to finish. This includes the initial step of actually filing the complaint (or understanding what constitutes a legitimate complaint in the first place), to understanding how their complaint may affect their employment status. The program provides a more detailed and specific list of what actually constitutes “adverse action” against a whistleblower.

If you report an employer’s violation, or are considering doing so, keep an eye out for any of the following actions, which, according to the government, are illegal to take against a whistleblower:

If you have been let go from your job recently, but don’t seem to know exactly why, or the explanation you were given doesn’t seem to match your experience at work, it is possible that you have been wrongfully terminated and can bring a claim against your former employer. The following is more information on the laws in Massachusetts regarding wrongful termination as a guide for what to look for in evaluating whether or not you may have a valid claim.

In Massachusetts, employees are considered “at-will”, meaning that both the employee and the employer can terminate employment at any time. While sometimes it is beneficial for the employee in being able to resign and seek employment elsewhere at any time, the sometime unfortunate flip-side to that is that an employee can also be fired or let go at any time as well, and for the most part the employer is not technically obligated to provide a reason for doing so.

The good news is that “for the most part” means that there are exceptions to this rule. There are some instances in which firing an at-will employee can be grounds for a wrongful termination suit. One of the most common ways this can happen is if an employee is fired based on some form of discrimination.

In Massachusetts, the law states that an employer is barred from discriminating against an employee based on “race, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, religion, age, mental or physical disability, genetic information, sexual orientation, gender identity, and activity military status.” If you feel like your termination was based on one of these factors, it is important to report it as quickly as possible so that an investigation can be conducted.

Sometimes, however, it is not always as clear-cut as the above list of factors. Discrimination can be a little more subtle as well, in that in may be based on believing that these factors came into play at some point during your employment at the company, even if the actions didn’t necessarily lead to termination. For example, there is often a case where one employee is not promoted for a position which they were qualified for, “promised” (in a sense), or otherwise felt was deserved. Sometimes, this can coincide with one of the above factors (for instance, maybe an employee believes that because their employer recently found out about their sexual orientation, they chose not to give the employee a promotion because of it). If the employee then goes to file a complaint asserting this belief, and the employer finds out about it, it is illegal for the employer to then use the fact that the employee complained against him as grounds for termination. If this happens, even if the employer did not initially discriminate against the employee for the promotion, the fact that the employer then terminated the employee for filing a complaint for asserting a right (not to be discriminated against for sexual orientation), could be grounds for a wrongful termination suit. Therefore, it is imperative to keep track of actions, statements, and general conduct being displayed by the employer regarding any termination. Even if the employee is at-will, this fact alone is not grounds for an employee to always be fired for no reason whatsoever if the motive behind the termination is discriminatory in nature Continue reading

Although it is becoming increasingly more vital to attempt to crack down on the amount and frequency of sexual harassment occurring in the workplace, it is equally as important to learn how to recognize the signs and elements of sexual harassment from a legal standpoint, in order to more effectively address these concerns, as well as to know what your rights are. Legally, there are two ways that one can be harassed while at work: through “quid pro quo” and “hostile work environment” harassment.

According to Massachusetts General Law Ch. 151B, “quid pro quo” harassment is defined as:

sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when . . . submission to or rejection of such advances, requests or conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of employment or as a basis for employment decision.

Contact Information