When all the money and legitimate influence in the world can’t get what you want, some of the world’s less scrupulous – and wealthier – individuals will resort to one tried and true, illegal method that has been ongoing as long as humans have had money: bribery.

Foreign bribery schemes can involve any different type of organization – from construction firms bribing real estate companies to earn building rights to a new development, to medical device companies bribing pharmaceutical companies to sell their products and not their competitors. When these illicit money exchanges change hands across international borders, it becomes a much more serious matter.

These bribery schemes can become massive, such as a global construction bribery network that involved shuffling around $788 million in illegal bribes to executives and foreign diplomats around the world in order to illegally gain an advantage and win business deals. The companies involved are on the hook for about $3.5 billion in penalties.

All acts of foreign bribery are illegal under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), enforced by the United States Department of Justice.

“Specifically, the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA prohibit the willful use of the mails or any means of instrumentality of interstate commerce corruptly in furtherance of any offer, payment, promise to pay, or authorization of the payment of money or anything of value to any person, while knowing that all or a portion of such money or thing of value will be offered, given or promised, directly or indirectly, to a foreign official to influence the foreign official in his or her official capacity, induce the foreign official to do or omit to do an act in violation of his or her lawful duty, or to secure any improper advantage in order to assist in obtaining or retaining business for or with, or directing business to, any person.”

The Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) may also become involved when any United States business or individual engages in an illegal payment to a foreign official, foreign political party or candidate for political office for the purpose of gaining influence or securing some type of advantage they wouldn’t have without the bribe.

As with other acts of illegal misconduct, foreign bribery whistleblowing programs exist to facilitate the identification and prosecution of criminals who attempt to utilize bribery, and reward the individuals who take the risk to shine a spotlight on their illegal activity.

The SEC may offer as much as a 30 percent award to a whistleblower, through its Whistleblower Act, for actions that lead to the unveiling of a foreign bribery scheme. In the case of a large bribery scandal, like the one mentioned above, this reward could be astronomical for a whistleblower or team of whistleblowers. Continue reading

The workplace is where Americans spend close to 10,000 hours of their lives, on average. Needless to say, if your place of employment makes you unhappy, you won’t exactly be able to simply endure the negative way it makes you feel, day in and day out.

But how can you be sure if your Massachusetts workplace is simply an unpleasant place to be, or if it has turned into something that is simply not acceptable anymore? How can you tell if work conditions have gone from slightly unbearable, to downright hostile? Use the following information to ascertain whether or not you work in a hostile work environment, and whether or not you have legal recourse to remedy this.

Are you being harassed?

Harassment is a large umbrella that encompasses a wide range of discriminatory behavior. It boils down to this: if you are being singled out or otherwise targeted due to something completely unrelated to your work performance – such as your race, gender, age, sexual orientation or a disability – then you are being unlawfully harassed.

If you are subjected to conditions, work expectations or other behaviors that are not endured by other employees, then you are most likely the victim of harassment. It is not acceptable for a supervisor to force one employee to clean their office, or get them lunch every day, if this is not a task laid out clearly in a job description.

Harassment can take many forms, from threats of firing for not performing tasks unrelated to your job to being mocked openly in front of your coworkers by a supervisor. If the conduct of a coworker, supervisor or anybody else in the workplace makes you uncomfortable, scared or emotionally affected in a way that it negatively impacts your ability to perform your job, then that is textbook harassment, which is illegal.

Is someone else being harassed?

You can righteously make the claim that you are working in a hostile work environment even if you aren’t the subject of any harassment.

The workplace needs to be a safe, accepting space for all of its workers. If there is somebody else who is consistently victimized, in plain view of other employees, then this can create a hostile work environment for others even if they aren’t directly being harassed. Seeing somebody else be harassed can be equally alarming and traumatizing for the person who is actively being treated poorly.

Sexual harassment

Perhaps the most egregious condition that causes a hostile work environment is sexual harassment. If you are ever subjected to uncomfortable, unwanted sexual advances by an employee, supervisor or other person in the workplace, this is unacceptable and highly illegal. Sexual harassment can be physical or verbal in nature, and can also take the form of various threats, which may be carried out if sexual favors are not performed.

What can be done?

Instances of harassment, when possible, should first be discussed with the offending person. Calmly tell them that their behavior is causing you undue harm and stress, and ask them to stop the behavior immediately. Keep a written, dated record of any instances of harassment that occur.

If you are too scared or uncomfortable to bring up your concerns to the offender personally, or if you have told them to stop and the behavior has not stopped, bring the issue forward to your human resources representative. From there, any number of actions may be taken. Likely, a workplace investigation will take place, ideally from an independent, outside investigator with no stake in the company.

If this course of action doesn’t cause the behavior to stop, then you may wish to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which is the federal agency that enforces civil rights laws in the workplace. The EEOC can investigate complaints regarding harassment, as well as instances where an employee was unlawfully retaliated against for formally filing a complaint to stop harassing behavior. 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

Sexual harassment can occur anywhere. And it’s shockingly common, especially in the workplace. In fact, one in three women between the ages of 18 and 34 report being sexually harassed at work. Sexual harassment is a form of discrimination, and a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. As such, it is a federally prohibited act. Even so, workplace sexual harassment continues to occur with shocking frequency. Read on for more information about what constitutes sexual harassment in the workplace, and what to do if you are being harassed.

Title VII protects workers from unlawful discrimination, including discrimination based on race, gender, sexual orientation, and religion. Sexual harassment encompasses a diverse array of behaviors, including unwelcome sexual advances, verbal sexual misconduct, physical sexual misconduct, and requests for sexual favors. Title VII applies to employers with at least 15 employees, and includes government entities. A Boston employment law attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace.

Whether or not an action is considered sexual harassment is largely dependent on the particulars of the situation. For example, the telling of sexually-suggestive jokes between co-workers who are friends outside of work and who engage in that type of banter is probably not sexual harassment. However, if a superior tells sexually-suggestive jokes to a new employee and it makes her uncomfortable, this may be considered a form of sexual harassment. This is especially true if he continues to tell the jokes even after discovering that they make the employee uncomfortable.

Quid Pro Quo vs. Hostile Work Environment

Workplace sexual harassment is usually placed in one of two categories: quid pro quo or hostile work environment.  A MA employment law attorney can help you protect your rights if you’ve been the victim of workplace sexual harassment.

  • Quid pro quo: This type of sexual harassment occurs when the harassment is tied to an employment decision, such as a promotion or termination.
  • Hostile work environment: This type of sexual harassment occurs when the harassment of a superior or co-worker makes your work environment offensive, intimidating, or hostile.

In addition to sexually-suggestive jokes, sexual harassment may include threats or bribes soliciting sexual activity, sexual comments or innuendos, unwelcome touching, displays of sexually explicit or graphic images or content, and any type of sexual assault. If you have been sexually harassed, the severity of the incident will have a significant impact on the outcome of the case. In some cases, even a single unwelcome advance may constitute sexual harassment; for example, the request of a sexual favor in exchange for a promotion, or a uniquely severe form of harassment, such as assault. If an isolated incident is less serious, such the telling of a sexually-suggestive joke, it may be difficult to qualify as sexual harassment. When a pattern exists, however, painting a picture of a hostile work environment will be an easier task. Continue reading

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

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