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Washington D.C. Employment Law Blog

EEOC OFO Reverses AJ and Finds Discrimination

Sharon Walker, Martha Larry, Merriom Hashim, Antoinette Clark, Sherry Mosley v. John M. McHugh, Secretary, Department of the Army

OFO Appeal Nos. 0120123054, 0120123055, 0120123056, 0120123057, 0120123058

We just won an appeal before the EEOC Office of Federal Operations in a case where we represent five African American nurses employed by the federal government who claimed they were discriminated against on the basis of their race when they were not considered for promotion to team lead positions.

VA Whistleblower In Minneapolis Alleges Wrongful Firing

Our client, Leticia Alonso, was formerly employed as a Medical Support Assistant Supervisor in the GI Department at the Minneapolis VA. In or around May 2014, she began reporting that GI consults were not being scheduled in a timely manner. Patients were to be contacted within 7 days and an appointment was to be scheduled within 14 days from the date of referral by a physician. Instead, Ms. Alonso reported consults were severely overdue, one as old as 46 days overdue. She also reported that she was being instructed to cancel patient appointments and enter false comments into the VA system, such as patient declined appointment, or no response from patient, when in fact the patient had never been called about the appointment and that certain more symptomatic patients were being placed on a secret waitlist instead of in the official VA system. Ms. Alonso alleges that as a result of her reports, on June 4, 2014, she received a notice of proposed removal and was subsequently removed from service on July 1, 2014.

Nursing home settles lawsuit alleging overstated Medicaid reimbursement claims:

Federal and state laws prohibit healthcare providers from submitting overstated bills to the government.  These laws are generally called false claims act or qui tam cases and the person who blows the whistle may recover damages.  False claims can take many forms including overstated invoices and out and out theft. 

In the nursing home field, companies receive compensation from the government through Medicaid reimbursements.  The amount of money a nursing home receives from the government for each resident under Medicaid generally depends upon the level of care each resident requires.  Information about the level of care each resident requires is relayed to the government by the nursing home, and the government in turn pays the nursing home a reimbursement rate based upon the information it receives from the nursing home. 

Do you have to participate in company sponsored Wellness programs?

It is very trendy these days for companies to encourage their employees to lead healthier lives in an effort to drive down the cost of health care premiums.  Towards this end, many companies have instituted what are commonly known as "wellness programs", where they ask their employees exercise, give up smoking or generally lead healthier lifestyles.  While these programs may be well intentioned, risks arise when the companies require their employees to disclose medical information about themselves as part of the wellness program and single out employees who don't feel comfortable complying with their requests.

A recent case filed in Wisconsin by the EEOC highlights the problems companies may face when employees decline to participate in a wellness program and thereafter allege that they were subjected to retaliation for their decision.

What to do if you are rejected for a job because of a credit report or criminal background check?

Many jobs these days require that you permit the employer to conduct a credit report, criminal history report or other background check before they decide whether to hire you. 

What if the employer performs a background check on you and you don't get the job?

Frequently, what happens, is that the employer just lets you know that your application was rejected because of the background check but won't tell you why.  This situation is very frustrating and leaves people in the dark as to what is in their report that is damaging and whether what is in the report is accurate.

When can a federal employee appeal a forced retirement to MSPB?

We frequently consult with longtime federal employees who are towards the end of their careers and find themselves dealing with a new and unpleasant supervisor who makes their work life hell.  By the time they get to us the situation at work is bad.  Either the supervisor has issued discipline, rated them unacceptably, or placed them on a PIP.  We are frequently asked if they can claim that they were forced to quit and then pursue a claim against the agency at MSPB.

MSPB rules hold that in order to state a claim for involuntary retirement, also called a forced removal or constructive discharge, the employee must establish that the retirement was the result of intolerable working conditions. 

We welcome our new associate attorney, Stephanie Ruiter.

Stephanie Ruiter is licensed to practice in Maryland and the District of Columbia. Prior to joining our firm, Stephanie worked for over two years at a personal injury firm. She has extensive trial experience and has appeared in Maryland District and Circuit Courts, as well as DC Superior Court. She represents clients in the federal and private sector in various employment actions, including discrimination, wrongful termination and employment contract disputes.

We welcome our new associate attorney, Sara Nunley McDonough.

Sara is a graduate of the College of William and Mary and attended law school at the University of Richmond. She is licensed to practice law in the Commonwealth of Virginia. During law school, Ms. McDonough's studies and work experience focused on the fields of employment law and employment discrimination law. Ms. McDonough completed an externship at the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) field office in Richmond, VA. She worked closely with an EEOC attorney and investigators on cases involving employment discrimination on the basis of religion, sexual harassment, race, color, and retaliation. Additionally, Ms. McDonough interned with the Disability Law Center of Virginia (formerly Virginia Office for Protection and Advocacy), an organization that advocates and provides legal services for persons with disabilities.

Court Rules "Maxiflex Schedule" Can Be A Reasonable Accommodation

Disabled employees who require maximum flexibility in their work schedules have received a show of support from the DC Court of Appeals in the recent decision of Solomon v. Vilsack, (No. 12-5123, 8/14), which held that a "maxiflex schedule" -- one that allows an employee to come in late, leave early and work late, as needed -- can be a reasonable accommodation for a disability so long as that person fulfills their weekly hours.

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