Whistleblowers Must Have Independent Knowledge to Actually Blow the Whistle

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To bring a valid qui tam action and overcome the so-called “public disclosure bar” under the False Claims Act (“FCA”), a whistleblower must have direct knowledge of the alleged fraudulent activity, independent of already publicly disclosed information. Seems simple enough, you might say. But of course, simplicity in the application of what seem like common sense legal standards is often anything but simple. And in applying the public disclosure bar, courts vary on what constitutes direct knowledge and already publicly disclosed information. Continue reading this entry

“But I Didn’t Know You Were Working…”

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We live in the era of wage and hour lawsuits, particularly involving claims of “off the clock” work. Employees – who rarely first complain to their employer – allege in the lawsuit they were required to work “off the clock” because the employer only allowed reporting a certain number of hours, because the employer “discouraged” overtime, or because of the need “to get the job done.” The employer first hears of these “off the clock” hours when the federal or state lawsuit is filed and damages claimed.

The employer is often blindsided by this alleged “off the clock” activity and does not understand why the claim was filed. The usual response – “I didn’t know the employee was working these hours” – is then normally followed by “why didn’t he tell me?” Continue reading this entry

The Next Cleat Drops… College Athletes Sue for Unpaid Wages

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If college athletes are employees under the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”), then why not under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”)? That proposition predictably follows from the recent determination by the Chicago Regional Director of the National Labor Relations Board (“Board”) that Northwestern University’s scholarship football players are employees under the NLRA and thus could unionize and bargain collectively over the terms and conditions of their “work” playing football – an issue now currently under review by the full Board. With plaintiff’s-side employment lawyers surely salivating over the prospects of college athletes as employees, it was only a matter of time before a college athlete would assert employee status under the FLSA and sue a school for unpaid wages. Continue reading this entry

Ebola Preparedness: Employee Education Is Key

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In the wake of the world’s largest Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak in history, Americans have been inundated with media hype surrounding the disease, and the government and employers’ perceived inadequacy in their response. While the threat of a widespread EVD outbreak in the United States is minimal, healthcare providers in particular, but also airlines and travel-related companies, mortuary employers and laboratories should all take steps to educate and protect their workforce. As experience has taught, educating and openly communicating with employees helps reduce truancy, limits discriminatory activity, and ultimately creates a healthier and safer workforce. Still, many employers are unsure what they can and cannot require of their employees. Below, we touch on some of the most pertinent topics that employers in these critical sectors may want to consider as they confront employees and customer/patient pools concerned about EVD. Continue reading this entry

Marijuana Card Saves Unemployment Benefits, Not Job

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In the rapidly evolving interplay between federal and state employment laws, state medical marijuana laws, and employer policies seeking to maintain drug-free workplaces, an appellate court in Michigan has just concluded that while having a medical marijuana card cannot save your job with a private employer after a positive drug test (as concluded by a federal appellate court several years ago), it will not disqualify the employee for unemployment benefits. According to the Michigan Court of Appeals then, employees discharged after testing positive for marijuana based on their use pursuant to the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act (“MMMA”) can still receive unemployment compensation. Continue reading this entry