Charles Goetsch Law Offices LLC

CT, NY and New Jersey Whistleblower Law Blog

Awards related to qui tam actions for cooperative informants

Whistleblowers in Connecticut are sometimes rewarded if the government is able to recover funds lost to fraud. One way this is done is with what's referred to as a qui tam lawsuit, which is brought under the False Claims Act. Cases of this nature can be an effective way for the government stop various types of fraud. The individual who initiated the action receives a portion of damages, penalties, and awards that come from the government's litigation efforts.

A defendant found liable in a fraud action pursued by the government must pay three-times the government's monetary damages. If a defendant fully cooperates, this amount is reduced to twice the amount of the government's monetary losses. Additional penalties are also set by the court. With successful qui tam actions, the person who initiated the suit receives no more than 10 percent of the penalty and damage award if the action resulted from public information or testimony.

Officials ask for stronger whistleblower awareness

Representatives of businesses and workers in the trucking and railway industries have said that increased awareness of whistleblower rules could improve the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's regulatory efforts. With the amount of influence the industries have in New York and around the country, improved awareness could have a major impact. The specific issue is OSHA's plan to bolster its program for whistleblower protection. The agency held a session on June 12 at the headquarters of the Department of Labor, during which representatives set forth their cases.

The OSHA program currently gets approximately $17.5 million each year from Congress. The Trump administration has budgeted $17.4 million for the year 2019. OSHA is tasked with the enforcement of anti-retaliation requirements of 22 different laws that range from financial malfeasance to worker safety. Whistleblower protections are extended to transit, trucking and railroad workers by the National Transit Systems Security Act, the Surface Transportation Assistance Act and the Federal Railroad Safety Act.

Understanding what might happen with whistleblowing

People who live in connecticut might have heard of whistleblowing but may be uncertain what the term means. A whistleblower is someone who exposes scandals and fraud. Many whistleblowers report the illegal conduct of their employers to the relevant federal and state agencies.

Some employees choose to blow the whistle to report fraud and other misconduct by their employers or co-workers. The government encourages whistleblowing because it helps to expose fraud that might otherwise go undetected. Examples might include reporting employers who commit Medicare billing fraud or other similar violations of federal law.

Second conductor in railroad crash files lawsuit

Connecticut residents may have heard about the 2016 NJ Transit crash that killed one passenger and injured more than 100 others. The impact made part of the station's roof collapse. There were two conductors on that train, both of whom were injured. One sued NJ Transit in June of 2018. The other filed his suit in March of 2019.

Both conductors, being railroad workers, are suing under the Federal Employers Liability Act. Their protection under federal law generally means that railroad workers do not file for workers' compensation. Since NJ Transit is a state agency and enjoys "sovereign immunity," however, it cannot be sued under federal law.

Whistleblowers say Tesla hid facts from feds and shareholders

Corporations in Connecticut and elsewhere have an obligation to disclose pertinent information to shareholders and federal regulators. A new whistleblower tip filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission by a former Tesla Inc. employee has raised concerns about the accuracy of disclosures made to shareholders and the SEC. The man behind the allegations worked as a Security Control Center Supervisor, and his claims validate a previous whistleblower tip made in August 2018.

The latest whistleblower tip questioned the legitimacy of the proposal circulating in 2018 that the company would be taken private. The whistleblower said that many people had doubts about the proposal. A lawsuit later filed by the SEC against the company's leader Elon Musk asserted that he had made "false and misleading statements" concerning investors' interest in making the private deal.

Payments to injured railroad workers for wages taxable

Railroad workers in Connecticut might want to know about a recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. The nation's highest court ruled on a case concerning whether lost wage payments to injured railroad workers are taxable.

The Railroad Retirement Tax Act is a law that establishes a self-sustaining retirement benefits system for rail workers. The workers contribute to the program through payroll deductions that are similar to Social Security. The case involved a worker for BSNF who was injured on the job. He was awarded a total of $126,212.78 by a jury. Out of that amount, $30,000 was for lost wages.

Whistleblower awarded more than $1 million in damages

Connecticut railway workers are protected as whistleblowers by the Federal Rail Safety Act. A man was awarded $250,000 in punitive damages and $800,000 for emotional distress by a Colorado court on February 19 after he filed a whistleblower retaliation claim against his employer, BNSF Railway Company.

The man was a track inspector who discovered that tracks were being put back into service before their defects were fixed. When he confronted one of the supervisors responsible, the person threatened him with termination. Later, he told a supervisor to stop writing false track defect reports. This resulted in an altercation between the two about which each person provided different accounts and ended with the man's termination.

Remain aware during the safety improvement process

People make mistakes, to be sure. In many cases, the repercussions of those errors are minimal. However, oversight becomes a tremendous problem when it potentially includes multiple lives. Such is the case for the Long Island Rail Road’s (LIRR) installation of faulty equipment during part of a federally mandated safety upgrade.

Due to a railroad contractor’s error, the $1 billion project has been delayed. With more than 4,000 antennas recalled, LIRR may not be on schedule for meeting the 2008 federal Rail Safety Improvement Act’s regulations. In addition to continued safety concerns for passengers and workers alike, the railroad could face fines in excess of $27,000 per day if the railroad violates the legal deadlines.

2 things to do after a railroad injury

Railroad employees work in hazardous conditions all of the time, which makes them prone to sustaining injuries while on the job. Because of this, the government created the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) to make sure workers injured while working on the railroad are compensated fairly.

According to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), there were nearly 2,000 incidents in 2018 where individuals were injured or killed on the job. If you are injured while working, what two things should you do right away?

9th Circuit upholds rights of railroad whistleblowers

Whistleblowers who work for railroads in Connecticut and around the country may be interested in a ruling that was handed down by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. An employee had filed a lawsuit against his employer, BNSF Railway, under the Federal Railroad Safety Act's protection for whistleblowers.

The lawsuit dealt with two incidents in which the employee "fouled" the tracks. "Fouling" refers to a worker approaching the tracks without proper authorization. The first time, the employee had not been informed by his supervisor that trains would be passing where he was working, and he was nearly hit by a train when he moved closer to the tracks to see if one part of the repair equipment was working properly. The employee reported to BNSF that he was diagnosed with PTSD. After making his report, the employee was the only one who was near the tracks that day who was disciplined for not following safety rules. The man later violated a safety rule again and was fired.

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