The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows eligible employees to take time off for certain serious health conditions, or to care for a spouse, parent or child with a serious illness or injury. While most FMLA leave is legitimate, those who abuse this legal right not only burden employers, but disrupt workforce productivity and performance. Unfortunately, in addition to unscrupulous employees, it is employers themselves who often leave the door open for such misuse in the way they handle and implement FMLA-compliance policies.
A large operator of acute-care hospitals reached a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to resolve multiple whistleblower lawsuits, which alleged the company knowingly defrauded government healthcare systems by billing for inpatient services that should have been billed as less expensive outpatient or observation services.
A non-profit healthcare company agreed to pay $800,000 as part of a settlement with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for allegedly mishandling 71 boxes of medical records in violation of the privacy rule of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
An investment firm's plan to defraud clients out of $10.9 million landed it a $15 million penalty from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). On top of the penalty, the firm must disgorge — or give up the profits secured through their misconduct — another $1.4 million gained by misusing "soft dollars" and "cherry picking" trades. The SEC also went after individuals, imposing separate fines on the firm's founder and another advisor and barring both from the securities industry.
The technology industry has been criticized in recent years for its lack of diversity in its mostly male workforce as advocates call on companies to be more transparent with their demographic information. Apple Inc. is one of the last big tech companies to respond and publicly share demographic data, revealing that its workforce is 70% male (global) and 55% white (U.S.). The company also reported that 11% of its U.S. workforce is Hispanic and 7% black — numbers that are much higher than similar Silicon Valley companies. In a prior blog post, we noted Google’s recent employee-diversity data that reported only 2% of its employees are black and 3% Hispanic. Apple’s higher numbers, however, may be attributable to its retail employees, who make up over half of its full-time workforce.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently sued a health network, alleging that the company fired employees who refused to participate in activities that the federal agency claimed were religious practices. According to the EEOC's complaint, the company forced employees to take part in a belief system that the company called “Onionhead.”
On July 30, 2014, two U.S. senators introduced the Protecting Student Privacy Act, which would update the sections of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) that deal with protecting the privacy of students' education records. The proposed legislation is a response to concerns about recent changes to FERPA that allowed increased use and sharing of student data by private companies, as well as concerns raised by the use of cloud-storage services by school districts for data collection and analysis.
A health organization narrowly averted paying a potential $4 billion in damages under the California Confidentiality of Medical Information Act (CMIA) for losing the medical records of more than 4 million patients. Plaintiffs were seeking $1,000 damages for each individual whose medical records were contained on an unencrypted hard drive stolen from the health organization. However, the California Court of Appeals dismissed the case because the plaintiffs based their claim solely on the fact that the information was stolen and in the possession of —but not viewed by —an unauthorized person. Without proving the information was viewed, the plaintiffs could not show an injury for which the defendant could be held liable.
As more claimants take advantage of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission's (SEC) whistleblower program created under the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010, courts have increasingly been called upon to decipher the law's provisions protecting claimants from retaliation. In particular, the issue of whether Dodd-Frank requires an informant to make a complaint directly to the SEC in order to qualify as a whistleblower — and thus be protected from retaliation — has become more divisive and could eventually be left to the U.S. Supreme Court to decide.
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) recently made enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) a top priority, second only to terrorism. While an overall increase in enforcement puts all industries on alert, the financial services industry — already facing heightened regulatory scrutiny in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis — should be particularly concerned. While historically not a sector that has seen much FCPA enforcement action, the financial services industry should prepare for increased enforcement of anti-bribery and anti-corruption laws not only in the U.S., but around the world.