We are pleased to report that the verdict in Williams v. Wyndham Vacation Ownership ranks as the top verdict by VerdictSearch for an individual employment action in California in 2016. The case also ranks as the fourth largest verdict in any employment case (class action or individual suit) in the U.S. in 2016.
A reader who wishes to remain anonymous writes, “Chris, I worked in the accounting department of a health care provider. Last year, my company discovered it had been using the wrong billing code for a key service when submitting Medicare reimbursement requests. This resulted in the government paying substantially more for the service than it should have. My supervisor directed me to compile a list of the overcharges for senior management. The company remedied the error for new reimbursement requests but never informed the government of the overpayments.
Two weeks ago, I sent an email to my supervisor asking why the company had not reported the billing error. I was told the matter had been resolved and not to raise the issue again. I would know if the company reimbursed Medicare for the overcharges. No payment was made. Last week, I was laid off without notice. I believe it was because I complained about the Medicare overcharges. I did not have a contract and they refused to give me any severance pay. What can I do?”
California’s leading legal newspaper, the Daily Journal, has recognized the outstanding success of attorneys Chris Dolan and Anne Costin in Williams v. Wyndham Vacation Ownership as one of the Top Plaintiffs’ Verdicts in California for 2016.
I received the following communication from an individual who wishes to keep his identity confidential:
“Chris, I’m a salesperson at a major corporation that puts tremendous pressure on us to meet monthly quotas. While not explicitly stated, the clear message we receive from management is do whatever it takes to meet your quota or you will be fired. I’ve observed other sales representatives repeatedly lie to customers to close deals. Their supervisors do nothing when customers complain. I want to quit my job but I also can’t stand what the company is doing to its customers. I read about the verdict you obtained for a person in a similar situation. What should I do?”
On November 25, 2016, columnist Gretchen Morgenson of the New York Times profiled Patricia Williams who was wrongfully terminated after she blew the whistle on fraud at former employer, Wyndham Vacation Ownership, the nation’s largest timeshare company. A San Francisco Superior Court jury the week earlier awarded Williams $20 million for her lost earnings and emotional distress, and punitive damages.
During her tenure at Wyndham, Williams told her superiors about an array of dubious activities with a focus on defrauding elderly customers. Salespersons falsely told customers that Wyndham would buy back their ownership stakes if they no longer wanted them. Credit card accounts were opened for buyers and charged without their knowledge and approval.
Press Release: $20 Million Verdict For Whistleblower Who Exposed Financial Fraud of Elderly By Wyndham Vacation Ownership – World’s Largest Timeshare Company
A San Francisco jury awarded $20 million to Trish Williams, a former Wyndham timeshare sales representative, who was wrongfully terminated for reporting time share fraud on the elderly (San Francisco Superior Court Case No. CGC-12-526187). The verdict, read late on Thursday, November 17, 2016, followed a one-month trial in which Williams was represented by Chris Dolan of The Dolan Law Firm and Anne Costin of Costin Law Inc.
Amit writes: “Chris, I work for a tech firm that sells products to a federal agency under a contract requiring a 5 to 20% discount, depending on the product sold, off of the price the company charges private businesses for the same products. My company discounts its list prices if that is what it takes to make the sale to other businesses. This happens all the time. But the discount we give the government is based on solely on our list prices. This bothers me. What can I do about this?”
Amit, you are not alone. Over the past few years, many employees in the tech industry nationwide have stepped forward as whistleblowers because their companies defrauded federal agencies. Promising a federal agency a price discount compared to what private businesses are charged and then not providing the discount when charging for the item violates the False Claims Act.
A: Labor Code Section 1102.5 sets forth protections for employees who report violations of, or noncompliance with, state or federal law. It reads as follows: “An employer may not make, adopt or enforce any rule, regulation, or policy preventing an employee from disclosing information to a government or law enforcement agency, where there employee has reasonable cause to believe that the information discloses a violation or noncompliance with a state or federal rule or regulation.
Section 1102.5 states that ,”An employer may not retaliate against an employee for disclosing information to a government or law enforcement agency, where the employee has reasonable cause to believe that the information discloses a violation of state or federal statute, or a violation or noncompliance with a state or federal rule or regulation. ”
Likewise, an employer may not retaliate against an employee for refusing to participate in an activity that would result in a violation of state or federal statutes, or a violation or noncompliance with state or federal rules or regulations.
Not only is a current employer prohibited from taking any retaliatory action against a whistle-blower, any employee who has previously reported unlawful activity cannot be retaliated against by any subsequent employer.
In addition to other penalties, an employer that is a corporation or limited liability company is liable for a civil penalty not exceeding $10,000 for each violation of Section 1102.5.
You can call the California attorney general’s Whistleblower Hotline at (800)952-5225 and/or report the conduct to the Department of Motor Vehicles.
If you make a report and your employer does retaliate against you, since you have engaged in an action that is designed to promote safety, you have civil remedies for a wrongful discharge in violation of public policy.
This can include lost wages (past and future) as well as noneconomic damages for the stress, anxiety and humiliation caused by being fired for standing up for what is right (and losing your income for an unlawful reason).
Additionally, an employer who engages in this action may be held accountable for punitive damages for engaging in oppressive conduct that violates the rights and safety of others.
Stand up for what is right before this allegedly drunken nephew kills someone or blows up a neighborhood. If your employer retaliates, I, or another trial lawyer like myself, will stand up for you and hold your employer accountable.