July 30th National Whistleblower Appreciation Day

Today, July 30th, is National Whistleblower Appreciation Day as designated by Senate Resolution 202 (published in the Congressional Record Vol. 159, No. 111, p. S6078). Text of Resolution 202

The resolution is based on the first whistleblower legislation probably passed in the birth of the United States by members of the Continental Congress on July 30, 1778. The resolution acknowledges the the Continental Congress legislation that recognizes “the duty of all persons in the service of the United States, as well as all the other inhabitants thereof, to give the earliest information to Congress or other proper authority of any misconduct, frauds or misdemeanors committed by any officers or persons in the service of these states, which may come to their knowledge.” The resolution states the public policy of the United States to encourage “honest and good faith reporting of misconduct, fraud, misdemeanors, another crimes to the appropriate authority at the earliest time possible.”

The resolution encourages each executive agency of the Federal government to “recognize National Whistleblower Appreciation Day by “(A) informing employees, contractors working on behalf of United States taxpayers, and members of the public about the legal rights of citizens of the United States to blow the whistle; and (B) acknowledging the contributions of whistleblowers to combating waste, fraud, abuse, and violations of laws and regulations in the United States.”

In my experience representing whistleblowers in public and private employers, it is one of the most challenging things to do. There is backlash from the employer and even co-workers. It take a lot of courage to do and usually at significant costs. So if you are a whistleblower or know one, the citizens of the United States thank you today for your service to us all.

Unlawful Debt Collection by Text Message

Should a debt collection agency be permitted to send you a text message demanding payment or telling you to “call about an important matter”? The Federal Trade Commission says “No” because text messages like this don’t communicate the important consumer rights language required by such communications and consumers often have to pay for text messages.

Professor Anita Ramasastry, University of Washington Law Foundation, writes about this FTC enforcement action and why this practice should be prohibited in her post on Verdict, a Justia.com blog, at http://verdict.justia.com/2013/10/22/debt-collecting-text.

Home Care Workers Can Now Get Minimum Wage & Overtime Pay Protections

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division issued a final rule on September 17, 2013, that extends the minimum wage and overtime pay protections to direct home care worker’s that provide essential home care assistance to elderly and people with illnesses, injuries or disabilities. The change in the law will be effective on January 1, 2015. This law will help home health aides, personal care aides and certified nursing assistants that previously did not get the benefit of minimum wages or overtime pay.

The Department of Labor has more information on the new rule at www.dol.gov/whd/homecare.

Wisconsin Workers Will Find it Harder to Get and Keep Unemployment Benefits in 2013

Wisconsin’s Joint Finance Committee recently approved a modification to the state budget bill, 2013 Assembly Bill 40, for 2013-2015 that substantially curtails unemployment benefits to Wisconsin workers. The modification broadens the definition of misconduct for the purpose of disqualifying workers for unemployment benefits. Since 1941, misconduct was defined as conduct that shows a willful and substantial disregard of the employer’s interests or is not within the standards of behavior employers have a right to expect of all employees. The new definition redefines misconduct as “substantial fault.” Substantial fault would include acts or omissions of an employee over which the employee exercised reasonable control and which violate reasonable requirements of the employee’s employer. Other changes to the bill would eliminate many of the existing circumstances where an employee that must quit a position can recover benefits and lengthens the disqualification periods that workers must satisfy before becoming eligible for benefits again. This is a significant shift towards disqualifying more workers from benefits for longer periods.

The legislature was also busy with a separate bill recently passed, Assembly Bill 219/Senate Bill 200, which imposes further requirements on unemployment recipients and additional bases to disqualify unemployed workers.

These changes come at a difficult time for unemployed workers in Wisconsin. The state fell to 44th in the nation in job creation in March according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and 49th in economic outlook according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.

How to Secure Your Credit Reports After Identity Theft under Wisconsin Law

If you are a Wisconsin resident and the victim of identity theft or fraud, you have the right to place Security Freeze on your consumer files with the 3 national consumer credit reporting agencies, Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. This makes it harder for anyone to use your consumer information through the agencies to open new credit accounts. You can place the Security Freeze on your consumer files by contacting the three agencies and reporting the fraud and requesting the Security Freeze. It costs $10 for each agency. More information on this process is at http://datcp.wi.gov/uploads/Consumer/pdf/IDTheftCreditFreezeFAQ632.pdf. Sample letters to each agency are available at www.privacy.wi.gov, which allow you to fill in your personal information and print the letters for mailing.

The contact information for placing a Security Freeze alert is:

    Equifax: CSC Credit Services
    Security Freeze
    PO Box 674438
    Houston, TX 77267-4438

    Experian: Experian Security Freeze
    PO Box 9554
    Allen, TX 75013

    TransUnion : TransUnion Security Freeze
    PO Box 6790
    Fullerton, CA 92834-6790

Under Federal law, you are also entitled to place a Fraud Alert on your consumer files and a free copy of your consumer file, known as a “consumer disclosure,” after you are the victim of fraud. For more information on your rights under Federal law, see our Blog entry on How to Secure Your Credit Reports After Identity Theft under Federal Law.

How to Secure Your Credit Reports After Identity Theft under Federal Law

If you are the victim of identity theft or fraud, you have the right to place a fraud alert on your consumer files with the 3 national consumer credit reporting agencies, Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. This makes it harder for anyone to use your consumer information through the agencies to open new credit accounts. You can place the fraud alert on your consumer files by contacting one of the three agencies and reporting the fraud and requesting the fraud alert. More information on this process is at https://www.annualcreditreport.com/cra/helpfaq#fraudalert. You are also entitled to a free copy of your consumer file, known as a “consumer disclosure,” after you are the victim of fraud. You can request this at the time you place the fraud alert.

The contact information for placing a fraud alert is:

  • Equifax: 1-877-576-5734; www.alerts.equifax.com
  • Experian: 1-888-397-3742; www.experian.com/fraud
  • TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289; www.transunion.com

If you are a resident of Wisconsin, you may also have the right to place a Security Freeze on your files. See our Blog entry on How to Secure Your Credit Reports After Identity Theft under Wisconsin Law for more information.

Getting Fired for Taking Time Off to Vote in Wisconsin

Can I take time off from work at my job to vote in Wisconsin without getting fired? Do you know the answer to that question? Take a look at our article, Time to Vote, Your Job and Your Rights in Wisconsin, on our website at http://www.celcwi.com/wisconsin_law_permitting_employees_time_vote.html, principally authored by Wyatt D. Dittburner, to learn more.

Wyatt discusses why employees in Wisconsin can take up to 3 successive hours off of work to vote without fear of being fired if the employee provides the employer notice before Election Day and goes at a time set by the employer. If the employer refuses to permit someone to take time off to vote or disciplines someone for taking time off to vote, like firing them, the affected employee may be entitled to bring a claim against the employer for harms that result.

By Gordon Leech

Claims of Inaccurate Rental Screening Reports Sold by On-site Manager Leads to Class Action Settlement

Tenant or Rental screening reports are used by many landlords. These reports usually fall within the definition of a report covered by the Fair Credit Reporting Act which gives consumers tenants significant rights. Inaccurate reports can wrongly keep a consumer from getting a rental place to live. When these tenant or rental screening reports are inaccurate, consumer tenants may have claims against the screening company that sold the inaccurate reports to the prospective landlords. In a case filed in the United States District Court for Southern District of New York by Debra Massey against On-site Manager, Inc., the court approved a class action settlement against On-site Manager, Inc., for the payment of funds to class members across the country on this basis.

Debra Massey claimed that On-site Manager sold tenant screening reports to prospective landlords and included inaccurate or outdated information such as civil actions filed against consumers that never resulted in a judgment and that were more than 7 years old. This is a practice that is prohibited by the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

For more information on the use of consumer reports such as a tenant screening report in the rental of consumer properties, you can visit our website pages on consumer credit reports at http://www.celcwi.com/help_inaccurate_credit_reports.html.

By Gordon Leech 10/29/2012

How to Keep Track of Your Work Hours

Did you know that an employer is legally responsible for keeping track of your work hours and maintaining these records? Even still, I have found that employers in violation of the Wage and Hour laws, particularly those that mis-classify an employee as exempt from overtime pay or that pay employees under the table, without making any of the legally required contributions to social security, unemployment or overtime pay, don’t keep track of hours. An employer’s failure to abide by its legal obligation to make and maintain your work hours may benefit it if you have a claim for unpaid overtime wages or minimum wages because the employer will argue that you did not work the claimed hours. Having your own record of hours worked can help in these situations, but is not necessarily required under the law for an overtime or minimum wage pay claim.

If you want to track your hours each week, the U.S. Department of Labor has made it easy. It created an application for the IPhone that is available for free. You can find out more about wage laws and how to download this free application at our website page on Unpaid Overtime Law by following this link: http://www.celcwi.com/upaid_overtime_wages.html

Sysco Fires an Employee Days After He Tells Them of Plan for Kidney Transplant

I consider the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits employment discrimination against people with serious health conditions, one of the most important laws we have in employee rights. Cases of disability discrimination are often the most compelling cases I come across. Don Boswell, an attorney and good friend of mine, represents Mr. Cupid. Sysco, Mr. Cupid’s former employer, terminated his employment just days after Mr. Cupid discovered he needed and was qualified for a kidney transplant, as reported by The Palm Beach Post wrote an article regarding this matter. Here is a link to the story:

http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/news/local/boynton-father-waits-for-justice-kidney-after-sysc/nSK6d/

The impact of the termination in this case is extreme. Not only did Mr. Cupid lose his economic stability, he lost his health insurance and was taken off the transplant list as a result.

If Mr. Cupid proves his claim, the ADA can restore him to his position at Sysco and provide compensation for his lost wages and non-economic harms. It cannot, however, restore the injury to his health in the meantime.

For more information about discrimination in employment and your rights under Federal and Wisconsin law, visit our page here at http://wisconsin-consumer.com/employment-rights-in-wisconsin/.