Former Avaya Government Solutions Employee Claims He Suffered Retaliation and Termination for Blowing the Whistle on Unauthorized Security Practices

According to Law360, a former employee of Avaya Government Solutions, William Holowecki, recently filed a whistleblower lawsuit against Avaya in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.  Mr. Holowecki alleges that Avaya terminated his employment in retaliation for revealing what he claims were fraudulent reports that Avaya sent to federal agencies, in violation of the False Claims Act.

Mr. Holowecki alleges that Avaya eliminated his position as an information systems security officer in retaliation for his discovery and reporting of false reports that Avaya allegedly made to a government contractor relating to unauthorized access to restricted facilities at Avaya’s Virginia location.  Holowecki alleges that Avaya’s failure to report the security violations was in violation of its government contracts and, as a consequence, resulted in the government paying claims under the false information – a violation of the False Claims Act.  Mr. Holowecki’s suit also claims that Avaya fired him because of his refusal to allow unauthorized employees access to classified information.

In addition to claiming that Avaya terminated his employment because of his protected activities as a whistleblower under the FCA, Holowecki also claims that the company violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) by replacing him with a younger and allegedly less-qualified employee.

Mr. Holoweck is seeking reinstatement to his prior position, as well as back pay and damages.  Mr. Holowecki is represented by attorneys at The Employment Law Group® law firm.

The Employment Law Group® law firm focuses in the areas of employment law and whistleblower protection law, has helped many clients file suit against employers that fraudulently billed the U.S. government, and has established favorable precedents under the retaliation provision of the False Claims Act.

Department of Justice Settles Suit with Wells Fargo for $175 Million for Homeowners to Resolve Lending Claims

On July 12, 2012 the Department of Justice filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against Wells Fargo Bank, subject to court approval, the second largest fair lending settlement in the department’s history. The Department of Justice alleges that between 2004 and 2009, Wells Fargo engaged in fair lending discrimination against African-American and Hispanic wholesale borrowers by offering them less favorable terms on loans than non-Hispanic white borrowers.

According to the complaint, between 2004 and 2008, Wells Fargo, the largest residential home mortgage originator in the United States, steered approximately 4,000 African-American and Hispanic borrowers into subprime mortgages while non-Hispanic borrowers with similar credit profiles were offered prime loans. Additionally, the Department of Justice alleges that between 2004 and 2009, Wells Fargo discriminated against approximately 30,000 African-American and Hispanic borrowers solely based on their race and national origin rather than their credit worthiness, and charged them higher fees and rates than their white counterparts. Furthermore, even after learning of its pattern of discriminatory lending, Wells Fargo failed to take sufficient and effective actions to correct it.

When the settlement was announced, Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole stated:

“The department’s action makes clear that we will hold financial institutions accountable, including some of the nation’s largest, for lending discrimination… An applicant’s creditworthiness, and not the color of his or her skin, should determine what loans a borrower qualifies for. With today’s settlement, the federal government will ensure that African-American and Hispanic borrowers who were discriminated against will be entitled to compensation and borrowers in communities hit hard by this housing crisis will have an opportunity to access homeownership.”

Of the $175 million settlement, $125 million will go toward compensating wholesale borrowers who were charged higher fees and rates as a result of the subprime mortgages offered to them because of their race and national origin, and any compensation offered to retail borrowers will be in addition to the $125 million. The bank has also agreed to provide $50 million in direct down payment assistance to the communities most affected by their discriminatory practices and which were hardest hit by the housing crisis. Wells Fargo will also conduct its own internal review of its retail mortgage lending practice.

The Employment Law Group® law firm is a leader in the field of whistleblower law and has an extensive nationwide whistleblower practice representing employees who have exposed illegal activity by their employer, including securities fraud and commodities trading fraud.

Cincinnati Christ Hospital Pays $1.8 Million to Settle Medicare Whistleblower Lawsuit Alleging that a Doctor Signed Off on Vascular Tests without Reading the Tests

Cincinnati, Ohio’s Christ Hospital has agreed to pay $1.8 million to settle a False Claims Act Qui Tam suit filed by former Medical Director of Vascular Lab Services Peter Podore.

Podore alleged that one of the Hospital’s doctors, John Paul Ruyon, was not only signing off on vascular tests for as many as 8,000 patients without properly reading and reviewing the tests, but he was fraudulently charging Medicare for these tests.  When Podore alerted hospital administrators to Ruyon’s actions, they ignored his warnings.

Commenting on what prompted him to file a claim against Christ Hospital, Podore stated:

“Every hospital is going to have problem physicians, problem behavior… And every hospital has procedures to deal with these things. But my concern is that when a hospital elects to ignore their own internal procedures and in doing so puts patients at risk, that’s the problem that sort of forced me to file a claim”

As part of Podore’s reward for filing a False Claims Act Qui Tam suit, he will receive $286,000 of the $1.8 million settlement.

The Employment Law Group® law firm has an extensive nationwide whistleblower practice  representing employees who have been victims of retaliation.

Real Estate Management Company Agrees to Pay $45,000 to Settle OSHA Allegations of Illegally Terminating Maintenance Employee for Raising Safety Concerns Regarding Asbestos

Earlier this month, CMM Realty Inc., a real estate management company headquartered in Columbia, South Carolina, entered a consent decree with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to settle allegations that it violated the Clean Air Act’s whistleblower provision when it terminated a maintenance worker who raised safety and environmental concerns regarding asbestos at the work site.

On May 13, 2009, the employee reported asbestos exposure at CMM Realty’s Briargate Condominiums in Columbia to the South Carolina OSHA Program and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Conservation. The same day after he made this report, CMM Realty told the employee that his services were no longer needed and five days later sent official notification of his termination.

As part of the settlement, CMM will pay the former employee $45,000, provide him with neutral references for prospective employers and will expunge all disciplinary actions from his personnel record. OSHA also permanently prohibited CMM from violating the whistleblower provision of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and ordered the employer to post an OSHA fact sheet regarding whistleblower protection in English and Spanish at the company’s facility.

Cindy A. Coe, OSHA’s regional administrator in Atlanta, Georgia, said:

“OSHA is committed to security workers’ rights of protection from retaliation upon reporting workplace safety and/or environmental concerns.”

The Employment Law Group® law firm has an extensive nationwide whistleblower practice  representing employees who have been victims of retaliation.

Tennessee Mail Carrier Settles STAA Whistleblower Lawsuit after Terminating Driver for Complaining About Defective Vehicles

Heartland Transportation Inc., a U.S. Postal Service contract mail carrier based in Knoxville, Tennessee, has agreed to settle a lawsuit filed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) alleging that the company violated the Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA) when it terminated an employee for complaining about defective vehicles.

In August 2009, the driver was assigned a trailer with a nonworking light to deliver a truckload of mail to customers in Pontiac, Michigan. When he realized the trailer had a nonworking light, the driver complained and the light was fixed before he made his delivery.  However, the driver encountered and reported multiple other mechanical failures with the company’s vehicles.  He informed Heartland that he would not drive trucks with mechanical failures. When the driver returned to the company’s facility after making his delivery in Michigan, he found that the company had removed his name from the driving schedule. When he inquired about this, Heartland informed the driver that it had terminated his employment. The driver then filed a whistleblower complaint with OSHA.

Following OSHA’s investigation, Heartland agreed to pay the former employee $31,200 in compensatory damages.  OSHA also ordered the carrier to remove all records regarding the involuntary discharge from the former employee’s personnel records, and to provide a neutral reference to any prospective employers. Heartland has also agreed to post a notice informing employees of their rights under STAA.

Cindy A. Coe, OSHA’s regional administrator in Atlanta, stated:

“OSHA will continue to ensure that the whistleblower protection provisions of the STAA are property and thoroughly enforced, while always keeping open the opportunity for settlement negotiations.”

The Employment Law Group® law firm has an extensive nationwide whistleblower practice  representing employees who have been victims of retaliation.