Whistleblower Hotlines

As a law firm who routinely handles whistleblower cases we have a whistleblower hotline.  The line enables potential whistleblowers to confidentially and freely discuss their potential qui tam claim.  As whistleblower lawyers who only represent individuals who expose fraud, not the companies that commit them, we are dedicated to prosecuting the claims of the people we represent if it’s a case we think is actionable and a fit for our firm.

However, internally within companies, the employer has its own whistleblower hotline to ostensibly report fraud within the company.  Take a step back and think how silly that is.  Yes, some companies probably earnestly want to do the right thing, but many other don’t, that’s why they committed the fraud itself.  When you call a company “whistleblower hotline” the information is received by the company who don’t have the whistleblowers best interest in mind.  Instead they are interested in protecting the company.  Even at the end of the day lines that are supposed to be anonymous and “protect the employee” oftentimes do not.

Inadvertently, when providing information, it is either singular in nature or so limited in nature that a company who wants to go on a mole hunt for the insider can easily do so.  Plus, since the well intentioned person used the internal mechanisms, the company will assume that the person doesn’t have a qui tam lawyer and try to lock them into statements that will damage their own case if they wanted to proceed, or worse yet, document things to try to retaliate and fire the whistleblower.

In short, while calling a company whistleblower hotline may seem like a good idea, it’s perilous.  If you feel the need to call one, ask them first whose interested they will be protecting – your or the company’s?   I’ll tell you now it’s the company, not you that they are paid from and working for, it’s not you.

The company may encourage you to report all sorts of fraud.  If it’s in the health care industry it can be Medicare Fraud, Medicaid Fraud, Insurance Fraud, SEC Fraud, Cryptocurrency Fraud, with many different subsects such as:

Opioid Over Prescription (a priority of the government)

Medicare Fraud – Billing for Services Not Rendered

Medicare Fraud – Upcoding

Performing Unnecessary Surgery

Unlicensed Individuals Billing for Medical Work

Pharmaceutical Whistleblowing – Diluted or Inert Batches. Falsifying Data.

SEC Whistleblower Fraud – Companies not having the best interest of the client in mind.

Another distinction between calling a whistleblower law firm and an internal hotline is that if you file certain types of cases with the use of counsel you stand to receive a whistleblower award which could be as high as 30% of the recovery.

If you know about a company committing fraud, call our whistleblower line at (877) 561-0000 before calling the company one.  You can speak with our qui tam lawyers free of charge and confidentially and we’re not paid unless we win your case.

Rounding Up RoundUp

It’s been widely known and litigated over the years that Benzene exposure can cause Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (NHL), Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) & Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS).  But over recent years there has been a proliferation of litigation regarding the use of the pesticide RoundUp and it’s link to the various lymphomas.

Just like with the talcum powder litigation, the defendants try to point to every other cause other than their own product.  Although the link to talcum powder and ovarian cancer is consistently found by objective juries who hear all the evidence, Johnson & Johnson consistently says self-serving bootstrapping statements that it’s safe because everyone knows its safe, even when its own internal documents show otherwise.  Hundreds of millions of dollars have been awarded to victims of talcum powder.

Now, for the first time RoundUp victims have Rounded Up and had the opportunity to present the facts to a neutral jury.  Just like with the talcum powder litigation, the jury did not believe the defendants and came up with a $290 million dollar verdict for an individual dying from exposure to it.   The substance glyphosate is under worldwide scrutiny with many attempts to regulate and/or ban it.

With this major verdict on behalf of the glyphosate RoundUp victims more exposure is certain to come to this product liability action and perhaps others who have come down with signature types of diseases linked to these products will be able to have their day in Court and the juries may compensate them accordingly.

Just like with any other piece of litigation, rights may have time limits, called statutes of limitations.  Your ability to bring a lawsuit for injuries from talcum powder, Benzene or RoundUp exposure may be limited to when you first evidenced symptoms of the signature disease.  It is best to respectively consult with a Talcum Powder Ovarian Cancer Lawyer, Benzene Lymphoma Lawyer and RoundUp Lawyer to find out if you can still bring an action.

One thing is clear from the RoundUp verdict, weed killer is killing more than just weeds.

Survey.com: The Latest Gig Economy Company Sued in California for Independent Contractor Misclassification

Like many companies in the “gig economy,” Survey.com promotes itself as merely a mobile app company. Its app allows people to sign up for on-demand merchandising projects such as:

Stocking, facing, and rotating products

Setting up end caps, promotional fixtures, and point-of-sale displays

Affixing stickers and instantly redeemable coupons to your items

Retail Audits

Individuals who complete projects generally receive a payment from Survey.com based on the size of the project. Since Survey.com classifies the workers that perform merchandising projects for them as independent contractors, they are not paid as w-2 employees or given any employee benefits.

A recent lawsuit filed on August 6th, 2018 in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California contends that Survey.com misclassifies its Merchandisers as independent contractors and as a result, violated their rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, and the California Labor Code.

Survey.com is the latest gig economy company to be sued for labor violations in the wake of the California Supreme Court’s April 30, 2018 decision Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court. The Dynamex decision rejected the longstanding test for whether a work was an employee or contractor (which had led many company to misclassify their workers as independent contractors), and replaced it with the so-called “ABC Test” which is far more favorable to the worker.

Under the ABC Test, the burden is on the company (in this case Survey.com) to demonstrate that every worker is not an employee by proving all three of these elements:

  • the worker is free from the control and direction of the hirer in connection with the performance of the work, both under the contract for the performance of such work and in fact;
  • the worker performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business; and
  • the worker is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as the work performed for the hiring entity.

Shortly after the Dynamex decision, Lyft and Postmates were both hit with class action lawsuits alleging their drivers should have been classified as employees. Similar to the lawsuits against Lyft and Postmates, the lawsuit against Survey.com argues that Merchandisers should have been classified as employees because they were not free from Survey.com’s control or directions in connection with the performance of their work, they work they performed was not outside the usual course of Survey.com’s business, and they were not customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as the work performed for Survey.com.

The Dynamex opinion is a massive victory for California workers who have been misclassified as independent contractors. If you are a contractor for Survey.com or another gig economy company whose entire platform is built on the work of its contractors, it is very likely that are owed wages and potential penalties under California law. Although the Dynamex decision was issued in April 2018, it has been held to apply retroactively, meaning you may be eligible to recover wages earned in prior years, subject to the applicable statutes of limitations. For further guidance, please contact our office.

Large Truck Accidents = Large Truck Accident Verdicts

Law360 reported today that there has been a large escalation in truck accident verdicts.  Citing to a truck accident verdict in Texas for over $100 million, that followed another Texas verdict for $90 million dollars, some thought has been put in why these verdicts are starting to pick up as much steam a big rig on the highway without a speed limit or speed governor.

 

One school of thought is that the plaintiff’s truck accident counsel have integrated technology better and are integrating it into their presentations from start to finish.   In the past (and still in the present), the defense has had the leap and luxury of generally being notified of the truck accident first through insurance and boxing in the accident victim in a variety of ways such as  interviewing them without counsel and coercing them to make inadvertent statements to hurt their cases.  With technology people have mobile phones with search capabilities and almost immediately after an accident instead of being cajoled by the insurance company, there is the chance to speak with a truck accident law firm about one’s rights.

Some people have taken issue about the representations that insurance companies unfairly interview unrepresented parties early, asserting the truth is the truth.  But something subtle and simple can come back to haunt a truck accident plaintiff, like the questions, “How are you feeling today?” eliciting a reply of “I’m fine.  How are you.”  This can be written up by the claims adjuster that the victim was feeling fine the day he or she was interviewed shortly after the accident, so why do they have so many truck accident injuries now?

Another focus of root factor influencing these large truck accident verdicts is the more detailed examination of compliance.  Like the defendants and insurances companies who interlink and formulate corroborated defenses and defense techniques, the plaintiffs bar has been collectively pooling resources to keep abreast of what’s working, what to look for, and how to delve into regulatory issues affecting liability.

Further along the technology front, with advances in technology its easier to create computerized models of accidents for the jury to sink their teeth into recreating the accident and evaluate liability and accident reconstructionist are more accessible and at time affordable in the context of the potential liability.  Drones have been used to show 3D versions of the areas and juries can relate to the emerging technology.

If heaven forbid you find yourself in a truck accident you speak with an experienced law firm that handles truck accident litigation like Brown, LLC (formerly JTB Law Group, LLC). The truck accident lawyers at (877) 561-0000 are always ready to speak with you about your case and to travel to meet with you anywhere in the country.

The Stark Act has Stark Remedies – $237 Million False Act Judgment

In July 2018, the Department of Justice announced the enforcement of a $237 Million Dollar Judgment against a Healthcare System for Medicare Fraud – a judgment that was entered in May of 2013. The basis of the Medicare Fraud stemmed from violations of the Stark Act in which the medical system is forbidden from self-dealing. It is unlikely the government will see all that money however, as per the terms of the settlement the government will receive roughly $72 million dollars and the offending facilities will be sold off.

The Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division stated, “Secret sweetheart deals between hospitals and physicians, like the ones in this case, undermine patient confidence and drive up healthcare costs for everybody, including the Medicare program and its beneficiaries “This case demonstrates the United States’ commitment to ensuring that doctors who refer Medicare beneficiaries to hospitals for procedures, tests and other health services do so only because they believe the service is in the patient’s best interest, and not because the physician stands to gain financially from the referral. The Department of Justice is determined to prevent the kind of abuses uncovered in this case, and we are willing to take such cases to trial to protect the integrity of the Medicare program.”

The Stark Law prohibits hospitals from billing Medicare for certain services (including inpatient and outpatient hospital care) that have been referred by physicians with whom the hospital has an improper financial relationship. The Stark Law has exceptions and exceptions to the exceptions so it is important to consult with a whistleblower law firm if you have knowledge of what you think may be improper self-dealing or a potential kickback type of situations.

At trial the government introduced evidence that the defendant required physicians to refer their outpatient procedures to them and then in turn overpaid them from Medicare for the referred procedures. They did so despite being cautioned that this could constitute medicare fraud and violations of the Stark Law. A jury heard the evidence and ruled for the government which was affirmed by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The case was initiated by a physician who had the courage to refuse to sign the illegal contract and thus retained a Whistleblower Law Form to commence a qui tam under the False Claims Act. The statute provides the whistleblower up to 30% recovery with 20% being the norm, and in this case the Doctor will receive a whistleblower award of roughly $18 million dollars for having the courage to do the right thing.

“The type of abusive compensation arrangements at issue in this case is precisely what the physician self-referral law was designed to prevent,” said Inspector General Dan Levinson of the Department of Health and Human Services-Office of the Inspector General (HHS-OIG). “Patients need and deserve to know that the hospital services they receive are the product of sound medical judgment, rather than motivated by the physician’s financial interests. The extensive litigation and settlement in this case should send a signal to the hospital industry that these tainted financial relationships simply will not be tolerated.”

If you know of any similar type of Medicare Fraud or are unsure about whether an arrangement in the health care field is legal or illegal you should consult with a whistleblower law firm like the JTB Law Group, LLC at (877) 561-0000. Generally, whistleblower lawyers are only paid if they win your case and can provide free confidential consultations.

TALC IT ON – Johnson & Johnson Hit with Another Large Verdict for the Talcum Powder Ovarian Cancer Link

Twenty-two women who brought claims against Johnsons & Johnson in St. Louis Court alleging that talcum powder caused their ovarian cancer were vindicated yesterday after a jury who heard all the evidence came up with a $4.7 Billion Dollar verdict.  This comes with a string of verdicts against Johnson & Johnson who are perplexed how come neutral juries who keep evaluating all the evidence keep finding there is a link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer.

Johnson & Johnson has attributed the verdicts to bad science and experts but trial attorney Jason T. Brown commented, “Time and time again when juries are presented the evidence they see through the charade that Johnson & Johnson is putting forth.  To blame the experts is insulting to the multiple juries who have heard this case and equally insulting to Johnson & Johnson’s own experts who are some of the best that money can buy.  The juries simply don’t believe Johnson & Johnson.”  Mr. Brown points out that he was not on this trial team, but his firm does represent other women who had long term talcum powder usage and were diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

J & J will have a lot to digest and to discuss with its board as a billion dollar verdict sends a message.  Even a pharmaceutical giant like Johnson & Johnson can not afford to withstand billion dollar verdicts with another 9,000 ovarian talcum victims waiting in the wings for their day in Court.  Talcum Lawyer Jason T. Brown stated, “If there were a different mass tort and different defendant, they would have tried to figure out a way to pay all the woman they’ve harmed, but this is their flagship product and they want to keep fighting to beat down the woman who have already suffered so much.”  He also went on to say that while he thinks parts of the verdict will be sustained on appeal, he thinks it’s likely that the dollar amount will be remitted or reduced on appeal.

There is another docket of talcum cases in the District of New Jersey consolidated as a mass tort.  There have been no talcum trials or talcum verdicts in that docket.

Twenty Two Million Dollar Settlement for False Claims Act (FCA) Liability for Medically Unnecessary Services and Therapy

Healogics, Inc. entered into a settlement with the DOJ to pay roughly $22 million to put to rest allegations it violated the False Claims Act (FCA) for overbilling Medicare for medically unneeded and medically unnecessary therapy.  Specifically, it was alleged that Healogics, a medical company, that supervises nearly 700 hospital-based wound care centers across the country, improperly billed for its hyperbaric oxygen (“HBO”) therapy.  It is not alleged that the therapy wasn’t administered, but instead that it was not needed.  Whistleblower lawyer Jason T. Brown commented that, “This was an excellent settlement.  One has to ask oneself which is worse though – submitting fraudulent Medicare claims for services not rendered, or actually performing those services on people who don’t need them to justify the alleged Medicare fraud.”

HBO therapy is covered by Medicare as an oxygen enriching treatment to wound care that is supposed to be used in certain well defined circumstances.  Oftentimes, a medical company will push its services and products to marshal greater profits and create a buzz about it to generate further use even if its not medically necessary.

According to the settlement, the Defendant agreed to pay $17.5 million up front to settle claims for a four year period.  The agreement also calls for an additional $5 million if certain contingencies occur.

“Civil healthcare fraud enforcement has always been a core part of the mission of our office,” said United States Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez for the Middle District of Florida.  “With this settlement, our Civil Division confirms its commitment to our nation’s critical struggle against practices that put public health programs at risk.”

Sometimes in resolving whistleblower cases under the False Claims Act, defendants enter into Corporate Integrity Agreements with the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General.  These agreements include monitoring with things like claims and system reviews conducted by independent reviewers often at the entities expense.

In recent years whistleblowers have been handsomely rewarded with a percentage of the recovery and in this whistleblower the case the relator is set to recover up to $4,276,900 as a whistleblower award.  In order to bring a False Claims Act case and obtain a reward, however, the whistleblower must use whistleblower counsel.

 

The case citations are United States ex rel. Van Raalte, et al. v. Healogics, Inc., 14-cv-283 (M.D. Fla.) and United States ex rel. Wilcox. v. Healogics, Inc., et al., 15-cv-1510 (M.D. Fla.).

Overtime Lawsuit Filed Against Gerrard Excavating, Inc. for Alleged Violations of the Federal and Colorado Wage and Hour Laws

On June 8, 2018, the lead Plaintiff Michael Perez filed a collective and class action complaint in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado, alleging that Gerrard Excavating, Inc., one of the largest infrastructure/site development contractors in the northern region of Colorado, violated the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) as well as the Colorado Wage Act (“CWA”) and Colorado Minimum Wage Order (“CMWO”) by failing to pay its Heavy Equipment Operators their rightfully hard-earned overtime wages for work they performed off-the-clock.

The complaint alleges that as hourly-paid Heavy Equipment Operators, Mr. Perez and the putative collective and class members were required to regularly work over forty (40) hours per week including time spent performing pre-shift work-related activities such as checking and warning up the machine and equipment, but the company did not pay them for such pre-shift work and therefore deprived them of overtime compensation, in contravention of the FLSA, CWA and CMWO.

The complaint seeks to represent the following putative FLSA collective members with respect to overtime claims under the FLSA:

All Heavy Equipment Operators employed by Defendant at any time from 3 years prior to the filing of this complaint through the date of judgment.

The complaint also seeks to represent the following putative Rule 23 class members with respect to overtime claims under the CWA and CMWO:

All Heavy Equipment Operators employed by Defendant in the State of Colorado at any time from 3 years prior to the filing of this complaint through the date of judgment.

Mr. Perez brings this collective and class action on behalf of himself and all other similarly situated Heavy Equipment Operators to recover unpaid overtime wages, liquidated damages, penalties, and reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs.

The case is Perez v. Gerrard Excavating, Inc., Case No.: 1:18-cv-01429-MEH.  The plaintiff is represented by JTB Law Group, LLC.

If you have any questions or information to provide about the above article, you may contact the following attorneys:

Nicholas Conlon;  (877) 561-0000
Ching-Yuan (“Tony”) Teng; (877) 561-0000

Owner of Nursing Facilities to Pay $30-million to settle False Claims Act allegations

Two former employees turned whistleblowers succeeded early this month in helping the US government recover millions of misspent health funds and hopefully dissuade similar cases from happening.

In a statement June 8, the Department of Justice said Signature HealthCARE, LLC, owner and operator of approximately 115 skilled nursing facilities from Louisville, Kentucky, agreed to pay $30 million to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act. Specifically, according to the whistleblowers and the US government, Signature HealthCARE engaged in practices that allowed it to submit claims for “unreasonable, unnecessary, and unskilled services” to Medicare patients.

Among others, these include placing patients in the highest therapy reimbursement level by presumption rather than individual evaluation of the level of care they actually need; providing the shortest amount of time required for Signature HealthCARE to bill at a given reimbursement level, and discouraging provision of more therapy beyond this required minimum time; pressuring therapists and patients to complete the planned minutes of therapy even when patients were sick or refusing such therapy.

U.S. Attorney Cochran for the Middle District of Tennessee thanked the teams of civil enforcement attorneys and the relators or whistleblowers who report fraud such as this.

“When we determine that companies are cheating the taxpayers, we will hold them accountable as we have in this case,” Cochran said.

The Justice Department considers the settlement as another demonstration of their efforts to ensure the beneficiaries of government-funded healthcare programs are actually receiving what they clinically need, and not what companies’ profits dictate.

“Signature was charged with illegally boosting profits by providing excessive amounts of therapy to patients whether they needed it or not,” said Special Agent in Charge Derrick L. Jackson for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General. “The decision to provide therapy should never be based on corporate financial considerations rather than a patient’s medical needs,” he added.

The settlement resolves the lawsuit originally filed by former Signature therapy employees, in federal court in Nashville, Tennessee on March 2015.  They filed the lawsuit under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the False Claims Act (FCA), which permit private individuals to sue on behalf of the government for false claims and to share in any recovery.  The Act also allows the government to intervene and take over the action, as it did in this case.

Ms. Emerson and Ms. Tuesca will receive a portion of the $30 million recovered funds. Whistleblower awards under the False Claims act can be as high as 30% without government intervention and 25% with but generally settling in around 20%, so the whistleblowers in the instant matter could receive around $6 million dollars for their courage in exposing an alleged fraud against the government for overbilling Medicare.

The case is captioned United States ex rel. Emerson and Tuesca v. Signature HealthCARE, LLC, et al., Case No. 1:15-cv-00027 (M.D. Tenn.).  The claims resolved by the settlements are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability.

If you have knowledge of Medicaid Fraud, Medicare Fraud, Fraud against the Government, SEC Violations, call our whistleblower lawyers at Call Toll Free (877) 561-0000.

Whistleblower Receives Award in latest string of False Claims Act Settlements

Since 2013, various hospitals have been caught allegedly defrauding the taxpayers to the tune of millions of dollars a year.  In an effort to avoid full exposure, they have paid millions of dollars to settle allegations of False Claims Act (FCA) violations that stemmed from a single whistleblower’s lawsuit in Arkansas. Last week the latest of these settlements was announced by the Justice Department.

In a statement June 5, The Justice Department said Allegiance Health Management, Inc., (Allegiance), a post-acute healthcare management company based in Shreveport, Louisiana, and four hospitals it owned and operated, have agreed to pay more than $1.7 million to resolve False Claims Act allegations that it submitted claims for reimbursement from Medicare for medically unreasonable or unnecessary services.

Since 2005, Allegiance arranged with numerous hospitals throughout the Southeastern United States to provide Intensive Outpatient Psychotherapy (IOP) services to patients on their behalf.  Allegiance established an Inspirations Outpatient Counseling Center in each of these hospitals where its employees and those under its direction and control identified potential patients, created patient treatment plans, and performed IOP services, among others.

This settlement resolves allegations that at each of the Inspirations Outpatient Counseling Centers, Allegiance provided IOP services to Medicare beneficiaries that did not qualify for Medicare reimbursement because 1) the patients’ medical condition(s) did not call for IOP treatment; 2) the patients’ treatments were not provided through an individualized treatment plan designed to help individual patients address specific mental health needs and reach achievable goals; 3) the patients’ progress was not being adequately tracked or documented; 4) the patients received an inappropriate level of treatment; or 5) the therapy provided was primarily recreational or diversional in nature, and not therapeutic.

The Allegiance hospitals that entered the settlement are: Allegiance Health Management, Inc.; Allegiance Behavior Health Center of Plainview, LLC; Allegiance Specialty Hospital of Kilgore, LLC; North Metro Medical Center a/k/a Allegiance Hospital of North Little Rock, LLC, and Sabine Medical Center a/k/a Allegiance Hospital of Many, LLC.

Before this, more than 20 other hospitals reached settlements to resolve the same False Claims Act allegations. Sixteen of these hospitals and their respective corporate parents collectively agreed to pay $15.69 million in May 2015. Two years before that, in October 2013, LifePoint Hospitals Inc. and two of its subsidiaries, PHC-Minden L.P., doing business as Minden Medical Center, and PHC-Cleveland Inc., doing business as Bolivar Medical Center, collectively paid more than $4.67 million.

As the whistleblower who brought the fraud to the federal government’s attention, he reportedly receives 17 percent of the settlement. Ladner filed a lawsuit in the Eastern District of Arkansas under the whistleblower provision of the False Claims Act, which permits private parties to file suit on behalf of the United States for false claims and share in a portion of the government’s recovery.  The individual commencing the action on behalf of the government is known as the relator and individuals must file a qui tam lawsuit with whistleblower counsel.

In this $1.7 million settlement, the awarded whistleblower stands to receive around $300,000. In the previous settlements, he has already received more than $3 million. The qui tam relator used to work for Allegiance. He was Program Manager at the Inspirations Outpatient Counseling Center located at Wesley Medical Center in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

All in all, the string of settlements combine amounted to more than $22 million payments from various hospitals in at least seven states. Though these payments resolved the FCA cases, the allegations involved still remain as allegations.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad D. Readler for the Civil Division said they will continue to hold accountable “those who waste taxpayer dollars and place profit above the legitimate needs of patients.”

“Entities that bill for needless services – as alleged here – cheat taxpayers and threaten the integrity of government health programs,” said Special Agent in Charge CJ Porter for the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The claims settled by the current agreement are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability.  The lawsuit is captioned U.S. ex rel Ladner v. Allegiance Health Management, Inc., et al, No. 4:10-CV-170 (E.D. Ark.). #

If you have knowledge of Medicare Fraud, Medicaid Fraud, or any other fraud against the government, don’t hesitate to Call Toll Free (877) 561-0000.

Call Center Workers’ Overtime Lawsuit Against Southwest Gas Corporation Heating Up

A former Dispatcher who worked at a call center in Las Vegas, Nevada commenced a wage and hour lawsuit against her former employer over alleged unpaid overtime wages. The complaint was commenced on June 7, 2018 against Southwest Gas Corporation over failure to incorporate shift differentials into their regular rates of pay and unpaid overtime wages for work performed outside their scheduled shifts. Plaintiff is asking for relief and damages under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. (hereinafter “N.R.S.”) §§ 608.016 and 608.018.

Southwest Gas Corporation has and continues to employ a staff of hourly-paid Dispatchers, whose principal job duty is to provide customer support to homeowners by addressing any gas issues and effectively dispatching technicians to resolves these issues. Dispatchers must communicate with homeowners and technicians by way of phone and computer.

Plaintiff alleged that Dispatchers were told to report to work fifteen minutes prior to their scheduled shifts in order to be ready to immediately begin calls once their shift started. Defendant required Dispatchers to submit timesheets that did not include the time spent working pre-shift and post-shift. As a result, Plaintiff and the putative collective and class members were required to regularly work over forty (40) hours a week and were not compensated for the time spent working before and after their scheduled shifts.

The complaint is asking for a jury trial. Plaintiff is seeking to maintain the case as an FLSA collective action and N.R.S. class action, and asks for Southwest Gas Corporation to pay Dispatchers their alleged unpaid overtime wages, as well as liquidated damages, attorneys’ fees and costs, and any other FLSA damages.

This was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Nevada, as Case No. 2:18-cv-01035-JAD-VCF. The Plaintiff is being represented by JTB Law Group, LLC.

If you worked as a Dispatcher at Southwest Gas Corporation, or otherwise have knowledge or interest regarding the overtime claims at issue in the lawsuit, please contact the JTB Law Group at (877) 561-0000.

New York Sports Club – Consumer Fraud Investigation

What exactly does a lifetime mean?  If you believe a certain complaint we’ve been told a lifetime to New York Sports Club may not mean more than a year or two.

JTB Law Group, LLC is investigating allegations that New York Sports Club allegedly had members pay an initiation fee to lock in a lifetime monthly rate of $19.95 a month and then increased the price anyway.  (https://www.wellandgood.com/good-sweat/new-york-sports-club-insanely-affordable-gym-memberships/)

To add insult to injury to its consumers, they allegedly are ducking behind arbitration clauses which make it less palatable to address the practice as a whole.  The JTB Law Group is investigating to what extent this happened, if at all.

Further compounding the issues include the inability to speak with a manager or someone accountable at most locations.  When it comes to signing up at the gym there always seems to be a body. When it comes to speak with a manager, they are rarely available to discuss the matter and emails to corporate go unheralded.

One location in particular is being investigated, the Bayonne New York Sports Club, which may have offered people the “lifetime membership” rates in 2015.  Other New Jersey New York Sports Clubs as well may have allegedly engaged in this practice.

If you are aware of any information regarding this practice, or if you yourself were a victim please call our firm at (877) 561-0000 to discuss the matter.

Three laboratory bosses to pay $114-M for violations of False Claims Act, paying kickbacks

Cases separately brought to court by three whistleblowers in 2015 continue to generate significant financial recoveries for federal health care programs and considerable whistleblower awards for the relators that brought them. Last week, the United States District Court in the District of South Carolina entered judgment amounting to more than $111 million against LaTonya Mallory, Floyd Calhoun Dent III and Robert Bradford Johnson, plus more than $3 million against Johnson and Dent. As provided by the False Claims Act, the amount represented three times the amount the three individuals illegally profited by submitting their false claims. The Court trebled the damage amounts, offset settlement payments received from the laboratories that submitted the false same claims, and with the whistleblower award computations awarded $63.8 million in penalties as requested by the United States, for a total qui tam judgment of more than $114 million.

Last January, Mallory, Dent, and Johnson were found liable of violating the False Claims Act (FCA) when they paid physicians in exchange for patient referrals to their laboratories. The court found them in violation of the Anti-Kickback Statute and related to this, causing their laboratories to bill federal health care programs for medically unnecessary testing. This judgment followed at least two settlements separately inked in the case by other involved laboratories in recent years.

Based on government investigations and the cases brought by the whistleblowers, the government presented evidence showing these individuals paid physicians in exchange for referrals that benefited their laboratories through financial claims to Medicare and Tricare. The government said the remuneration came disguised as processing and handling fees of between $10 and $17 for each patient referred to the blood testing laboratories:  Health Diagnostics Laboratory Inc. (HDL), of Richmond, Virginia; and Singulex Inc., of Alameda, California.

Add to this, the government also showed evidence that the said kickback scheme resulted in physicians referring patients to HDL and Singulex for medically unnecessary tests, which were then billed to federal health care programs.

The judgment says Mallory, HDL’s former CEO, and Johnson and Dent, were liable for causing the HDL’s submission of 35,074 false claims, worth $16,601,591, to Medicare and TRICARE. The jury also found Dent and Johnson liable for an additional 3,813 false claims, worth $467,935, submitted by Singulex.

Also resolved through this court’s order were three lawsuits originally filed by Dr. Michael Mayes, Scarlett Lutz, Kayla Webster, and Chris Reidel under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the False Claims Act.  Under the FCA, private citizens can bring suit on behalf of the government for false claims and they can share in any recovery.

The False Claims Act permits the United States to intervene in and take over the whistleblower suit, as the United States partially did in the three consolidated actions against Mallory, Dent, Johnson, and others in August 2015.

How much of the recovery will go to the whistleblowers is not yet known as of this writing, but whistleblowers can recover up to 30% of the recovered funds, but generally settle in around 20% when the government intervenes.  A whistleblower recovery of 20% of $114 million still could be around $25 million dollars, a large whistleblower award for those that the courage to come forth and report these wrongdoings.

The government gave recognition to the whistleblowers and anyone who takes steps to help uncover similar cases of health fraud. In a statement from the Justice Department on Tuesday, May 29, Acting Assistant Director of the Criminal Investigative Division Chris Hacker vowed that “The FBI will continue to aggressively investigate allegations of criminal misconduct between companies and individuals who engage in kickback schemes at the expense of the U.S. government.”

“We recognize the importance of those who came forward and brought allegations to light and realize that we cannot do our work without the public’s help,” Hacker also said.

The cases are captioned United States ex rel. Mayes v. Berkeley HeartLab Inc., et al., Case No. 9:11-CV-01593-RMG (D.S.C.); United States ex rel. Riedel v. Health Diagnostic Laboratory, Inc., et al., Case No. 1:11-CV-02308 (D.D.C.); and United States, et al. ex rel. Lutz, et al. v. Health Diagnostic Laboratory, Inc., et al., Case No. 9:14-CV-0230-RMG (D.S.C.). 

US intervenes in False Claims Act cases of whistleblowers against opioid-selling Insys

Five cases brought up by whistleblowers were consolidated and unsealed early this month as the United States intervened in the False Claims Act (FCA) cases against Insys Therapeutics, Inc.

The cases allege illegal marketing tactics related to Subsys, a sublingual spray form of fentanyl, a highly addictive opioid painkiller. Subsys was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2012 for persistent breakthrough pain among adult cancer patients who are already receiving but are tolerant to around-the-clock opioid therapy.

According to the five “whistleblower” lawsuits, the Arizona-based Insys Therapeutics, Inc. paid illegal kickbacks and defrauded federal health programs in selling Subsys.

Opioid lawsuits are highly prioritized by this administration as the epidemic has reached epic proportions and the government seeks ways to combat addiction.  Opioid Medicare Fraud or Opioid Medicaid Fraud allegations will trigger a swift reaction from the government particularly if programs meant to benefit injured people are exploited solely for economic gain and create a cycle of dependence.

Insys allegedly paid kickbacks to induce physicians and nurse practitioners to prescribe Subsys for their patients. The United States said in the complaint that these kickbacks took the form of sham speaker fees to physicians, jobs for the prescribers’ relatives and friends, and lavish meals and entertainment.

The United States also alleges that Insys improperly pushed physicians to prescribe Subsys for patients who did not have cancer. The government alleged that even the Insys employees lied to insurers about patients’ diagnoses to avail of reimbursements on prescriptions meant for Medicare and TRICARE beneficiaries.

In a statement, United States Attorney Nicola T. Hanna explained that the government’s intervention in the whistleblower lawsuits is just one among their efforts to fight the opioid crisis. The government believes that the illegal marketing activities such as the modes exposed in these whistleblowers’ lawsuits help fuel the opioid crisis.

Whistleblowers can file lawsuits such as these on behalf of the United States if they see that a party has submitted false claims for government funds. This is stated in the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act, which also gives the whistleblowers a share in any recovered funds.

The United States has the right to intervene and take over responsibility for litigating such cases. In this complaint against Insys, for example, the United States intervened since last month.

“Insys allegedly bribed doctors who are more concerned with profits than patients,” said Christian J. Schrank, Special Agent in Charge for the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Encouraging the inappropriate use of this too-often deadly opioid is intolerable enough, but the abuse is compounded when taxpayers are forced to pick up the bill,” he added.

As of this writing, the above are still allegations. Insys’ liability has not yet been determined. Meanwhile, the United States is also separately pursuing a number of criminal cases against Insys employees and Subsys prescribers.

The following are the whistleblowers’ lawsuits consolidated last week in Los Angeles and entered into by the United States government: United States, et al., ex rel. Guzman v. Insys Therapeutics, Inc., et al., 13-cv-5861; United States ex rel. Andersson v. Insys Therapeutics, Inc., 14-cv-9179; United States ex rel. John Doe and ABC, LLC v. Insys Therapeutics, Inc., et al., 14-cv-3488; United States ex rel. Erickson and Lueken v. Insys Therapeutics, Inc., 16-cv-2956; and United States ex rel. Jane Doe, et al. v. Insys Therapeutics, et al., 16-cv-7937. #

 

If you know of similar unhealthy arrangements that lead also to defrauding Medicare, Tricare or any other government fraud, call our whistleblower law firm toll free (877) 561-0000. 

Mental Health Clinic and Psychiatrist Owner Pay $805,000 to Settle False Claims Act (FCA) Allegations

Thanks to a whistleblower from Connecticut, the patients in the area utilizing psychiatric services will hopefully no longer become unknowing parties to misspending the government’s health budget or of any additional Medicare Fraud or Medicaid Fraud.

United States Attorney John H. Durham and Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen announced May 14 that Dr. Erum Shahab and Waire, LLC, doing business as Ellington Behavioral Health (EBH), have entered into a settlement deal with the government. They agreed to pay $805,071 to resolve allegations that they violated the False Claims Acts.

Shahab is a psychiatrist who also owns the EBH, a psychiatric clinic in Ellington, Connecticut. The clinic treats people with depression and substance abuse. It promises the latest in psychiatric treatment.

In treating patients with substance use disorders, Shahab and the clinic regularly conduct urine drug screening tests on urine samples from their patients. They use a single urine sample to screen for use of multiple classes of drugs. For Medicare, this is considered a single test and billed only once for every patient.

But Shahab and EBH submitted claims to Medicare for multiple units of urine drug screening tests when they knew or should have known that only one unit of service could be billed per patient encounter, the government alleged along with the original whistleblower. Due to EBH’s improper coding of claims, Shahab and EBH received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Medicare program that they were not entitled to receive, the government said in its complaint.

On top of this, Shahab and EBH also allegedly billed Medicaid for urine drug screening tests even when it did not actually test the urine samples or they tested it weeks or months after collecting the urine samples from the Medicaid beneficiaries.

The $805,071 settlement deal between the government and Shahab and EBH covers claims they submitted to the Medicare program from January 1, 2011 to September 30, 2013, and claims submitted to the Medicaid program from January 1, 2014 to June 30, 2014.

As the relator, Dr. David Simon, a former employee at EBH, will receive a share of the proceeds in the form of a whistleblower award amounting to $99,113. He filed his complaint in the U.S. District Court in Connecticut under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the both the federal and state False Claims Acts.

The whistleblower provisions of both the federal and state False Claims Acts provide that the whistleblower or relator is entitled to receive a portion of the proceeds of any judgment or settlement recovered by the government.

“Physicians and their medical practices must carefully code their claims, honestly bill for services, and ensure that taxpayers’ health care dollars are properly spent,” said U.S. Attorney Durham.

In 2012 and 2014, Dr. Shahab has also been reprimanded and fined by the government, in these cases allegedly due to improper handling of addictive drugs.

 

If, like whistleblower Dr. Simon, you suspect that a health care fraud is happening, call to speak with our whistleblower law firm toll free (877) 561-0000.

What to Do If You’re Being Sexually Harassed at Work

Sexual harassment continues to be a serious issue in the workplace. When a person has to put up with catcalls, crass jokes and sexual advances, it can make his or her job absolutely miserable. If you are being sexually harassed at your job, know that you do not have to stand for the kind of treatment. Here are the steps you should take to make it stop:

Know That You’re Not Alone

Getting sexually harassed can make you feel absolutely powerless. You may wonder why the offender is doing this in the first place and if you can ever make it stop. It is important to know that you are not alone. Many people experience sexual harassment, even in the workplace. Recognize that this is a society issue and it’s not your fault.

Tell the Offender to Stop

If you feel comfortable, let the offender know that you find his or her behavior offensive and you want it to stop. Sometimes people do not realize that their behavior is wrong and need to be told that it is. If you feel nervous about talking to the harasser, you should speak to his or her supervisor.

Document Everything

It is important to document every incident of sexual harassment at work. Write down the date, time, name of the offender, what he or she said and if there were witnesses present. If you ever have to pursue legal action, you can use the journal as evidence.

Follow Your Employer’s Procedure

If the harasser refuses to stop, you should follow your employer’s procedure for dealing with sexual harassment claims. If your employer does not have such a procedure, you should tell your immediate supervisor about what has been going on.

File an Administrative Charge

If the harasser is still bothering you after you have followed your employer’s procedure, it’s time for you to file an administrative file with the proper governmental agency. They will thoroughly look into your claim and attempt to resolve it with your employer.

File a Lawsuit

If the government agency is not able to resolve your complaint, you have the right to file a lawsuit against the offender and your employer. If you win the lawsuit, you may receive back pay for any time you had to take off work, damages for emotional distress and reimbursement for attorney fees. You may also require your employer to implement new policies to stop sexual harassment.

Navigating a sexual harassment lawsuit can be quite difficult on your own, so it may be in your best interest to hire an employment lawyer. He or she may help you build a strong case and gather necessary evidence. With an experienced lawyer on your side, you may feel a lot better about your situation.

Schedule a free consultation with a sexual assault lawyer VA residents use today to talk about your case in detail. You deserve justice for what you have been through.

Thanks to our friends and contributors from Cohen & Cohen, P.C., for their insight into sexual harassment laws.

$280 Million Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) & SEC Settlement

Panasonic Avionics Corporation (PAC), part of  global electronics company Panasonic Corporation (Panasonic), has agreed to pay $137 million dollars for alleged violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).  The charges arise out of a scheme to retain “dummy” consultants used to conceal third-party payments for accounting fraud.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Cronan said,  “The Criminal Division will take all appropriate action to ensure that the investing public is able to trust the accuracy of the financial statements of companies that avail themselves of American securities exchanges.”

These types of actions are comparable to SEC Whistleblower actions. Under the SEC Whistleblower program individuals who blow the whistle on companies engaging in fraudulent behavior stand to recover an SEC whistleblower award that could range up to 30% of the recover.  Therefore, the SEC whistleblower in this case could have received an SEC whistleblower award of a staggering $41 million dollars.

“Enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act is critical in maintaining a fair and competitive international market to which all businesses are entitled,” said Acting Assistant Director Hacker.  “Along with our federal partners and the Department of Justice, the FBI will continue to aggressively investigate violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.”

According to admissions and court documents, PAC knowingly and willfully caused Panasonic to falsify its books and records through “dummy” consultants  who did little or no actual consulting.  In outstanding work done by the United States Government, The United States Attorney’s Office and the Federal agents (FBI) investigating the matter,  PAC admitted that it mischaracterized these payments as “consultant payments” on its general ledger, which it knew caused Panasonic to incorrectly designate those payments as “selling and general administrative expenses” on Panasonic’s books, records, and accounts.

SEC whistleblowers who know of companies falsifying their books, or who don’t have the best interest of the shareholders in mind are integral in making SEC qui tam cases.

By distorting the payments and providing false representations and Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) subcertifications to Panasonic about PAC’s financials and financial controls, PAC caused Panasonic to falsify its books, records, and accounts in violation of the FCPA.

In a related proceeding, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed a cease and desist order against Panasonic, who agreed to pay $143 million to the SEC. That makes the the combined total amount by the defendant $280 million, which could have triggered an $84 million dollar whistleblower award if someone blew the SEC whistle on this fraud.

If you know of any Foreign Corrupt Practices Act or need an SEC whistleblower lawyer, call (877) 561-0000 to consult with our firm.  The SEC whistleblower provisions have a mechanism where the whistleblower can potentially stay anonymous from start to finish. The SEC violations could stem from accounting falsifications, cooked books, no show jobs, or any of a variety of violations where the company is falsifying its records to the detriment of the shareholders.  Even if you’re not in the United States and know about these violations you could potentially receive an SEC whistleblowing award for your information.

Three Physicians pay $700,000 to settle FCA violations with drug testing laboratory

Three physicians separately entered deals with the US government to settle allegations that they received improper payments and caused false claims to be submitted to Medicare, United States Attorney Scott W. Brady announced May 8. The allegations remain as such, but the three physicians involved will pay a combined total of $700,000.

Dr. Robert Fetchero, D.O., of Jeannette, Pennsylvania, Dr. Sridhar Pinnamaneni, M.D., of Windermere, Florida, and Dr. Thelma Green-Mack, M.D., of Zionsville, Indiana, referred Medicare patients to Universal Oral Fluid Laboratories (“UOFL”) for drug testing services while allegedly engaged in a financial relationship with the lab. Another doctor who pled guilty on related charges had already begun his 80-month jail sentence in July last year.

Because of the so-called financial relationship between these physicians and UOFL, the latter was able to send claims to Medicare for drug testing services from 2011 to 2014. UOFL paid the involved physicians to refer their patients to the lab for drug tests. The United States alleged that the financial arrangement between the settling physicians and UOFL violated the physician self-referral law, commonly known as the “Stark Law,” and the Anti-Kickback Statute. This, in turn, gave rise to liability under the False Claims Act.

The Stark Law forbids physicians from referring certain health services payable by Medicare to providers that he or she (or an immediate family member) has a financial relationship with, unless an exception applies. The Anti-Kickback Statute bars them from offering, paying, soliciting, or receiving payment to induce referrals of services covered by federal health care programs, such as Medicare. Violating the Stark Law or Anti-Kickback Statute can result in damages and penalties under the False Claims Act that are up to three times the payment earned from the scheme.

“A physician’s medical judgment should never be compromised by improper financial incentives,” said United States Attorney Scott W. Brady in a statement.

The False Claims Act is a powerful statute that enables courageous individuals with inside information to essentially blow the whistle and potentially receive a whistleblower award up to 30% of what the government recovers.  Under the Federal False Claims Act the cases must have some sort of nexus to the Federal government – either overbilling or falsely billing Medicare or Medicaid for example. Certain states like California and Illinois permit the recovery for frauds against private insurance companies as well.

 

If you know of similar arrangements leading to false claims to Medicare, take the first step to correct it. Call Toll Free (877) 561-0000.

Physicians, providers indicted for health care fraud

Over the past week, the United States indicted a number of physicians for allegedly causing fraudulent claims to be submitted to Medicare or Medicaid and to other health insurance entities.

In Pennsylvania, five physicians of Redirections Treatment Advocates, LLC, an opioid addiction treatment practice with offices in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, were charged last week for alleged unlawful dispensing of controlled substances and for having committed health care fraud, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, United States Attorney Scott W. Brady of  the Western District of Pennsylvania and United States Attorney William J. Powell of the Northern District of West Virginia announced on May 1, 2018.

The United States alleged that these physicians, working as contractors at various locations, created and distributed unlawful prescriptions for buprenorphine, known as Subutex and Suboxone, a drug that should be used to treat individuals with addiction.  The government alleged that the physicians caused fraudulent claims to be submitted to Medicare or Medicaid for payments to cover the costs of the unlawfully prescribed buprenorphine.

In Portland around the same time, a federal Grand Jury handed down an indictment charging Abdirashid Ahmed, 38, of Lewiston and Garat Osman, 32, of Auburn, with health care fraud involving the MaineCare program and soliciting and receiving health care kickbacks from May 2015 through December 2017.

According to the indictment, Ahmed sought payments from a MaineCare provider and in return referred some beneficiaries to the provider.

Ahmed and Osman allegedly took beneficiaries to the provider and served as Somali interpreters during the visits.  As a result, fraudulent bills were allegedly submitted to MaineCare, with overstated health and interpreter services. MaineCare reimbursed the provider based on the fraudulent billing.

An indictment is merely an accusation, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law.

Medicare fraud is still robustly going on, with only a fraction of it being detected and caught. Oftentimes unless a whistleblower comes forward there is no way to find out about illegal kickbacks, overbilling or a variety of other overbilling that may happen.

Under the False Claims Act (FCA), a whistleblower can come forward initially anonymously and collect a whistleblower award up to 30% of what the government recovers under Federal Law and some state statutes provide higher awards.  In order to commence a False Claims Act you must have a whistleblower lawyer.

 

If you know of similar cases of medicare fraud or wrongdoing that could be risking your health on top of unfairly charging our health care, call Toll Free (877) 561-0000.

New FLSA Tip Credit Provisions Let Employees Keep Their Tips

On March 23, 2018, Congress amended the provisions in the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) governing tipped employees.

Background: Minimum Wage and Tip Pooling

The FLSA allows an employer to pay a reduced hourly wage of at least $2.13 per hour to tipped employees, provided the tipped employees receive enough tips to bring their hourly rate to the prevailing minimum wage. The employees’ tips include those they receive directly, as well as tips distributed from a valid tip pool.

The FLSA has two perquisites for an employer to pay employees a reduced tip credit rate.

First, the employer must have informed the employee of the requirements for tipped employees under the FLSA;

Second, the employee must be permitted to keep all of his or her tips, except for tips that are shared with other tipped employees under a valid tip pool.

Traditionally, these requirements only applied to employees making less than the standard federal minimum wage (currently $7.25 per hour). An employer who violated either of these prerequisites could be held liable for the different between the rate paid to the employee and the standard minimum wage.

2011 Department of Labor Regulations

In 2011, the Department of Labor passed regulations regarding the FLSA tip credit provisions. The regulations provided that all tipped employees—not just those paid a rate less than $7.25 per hour—were entitled to keep all of their tips and could not be required to share tips with management of with non-tipped employees. This expanded the tip credit provisions to a significant number of employees who receive tips but still receive more than $7.25 per hour.

Recent Changes to the Law

The March 23, 2018 amendments changed the FLSA’s tip credit provisions in three ways.

First, under the current law, employees who make over $7.25 per hour can be required to share tips with non-tipped employees who did not interact with customers, whereas employees who make less than $7.25 per hour cannot be required to share tips with non-tipped employees who did not interact with customers;

Second, no employees, regardless of how much they are paid per hour, can be required to share tips with their managers or their employer.

Third, employees who are unlawfully required to share their tips with other employees who do not engage in customer service, or with management/ their employer, can recover the amount of tips taken from them, in addition to the difference between their actual pay rate and the standard minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.

The new tip-credit provisions clarify the long-standing requirement that only employees who engage in customer interaction may participate in employee tip pools. The recent amendments are particularly strict on the practice of management retaining tips, which is now prohibited for all tipped employees regardless of whether their wages are subject to a tip credit.

Having represented many tipped employees, the JTB Law Group knows that you work hard for your tips, and should be allowed to keep them. If you are not, you should contact us immediately.