Justia Government Contracts Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Labor & Employment Law
Dorsa v. Miraca Life Sciences, Inc.
Dorsa joined Miraca, which offers pathology services for healthcare providers. His employment agreement contained a binding arbitration clause. Dorsa claims that, during his employment, he observed Miraca giving monetary donations and free services to healthcare providers to induce pathology referrals, in violation of the AntiKickback Statute, the Stark Law, and the False Claims Act (FCA), 31 U.S.C. 3729(a)(1). Dorsa lodged internal complaints. Dorsa claims that Miraca fabricated a sexual harassment complaint against him. Dorsa filed a qui tam action against Miraca in September 2013. Days later, Miraca fired Dorsa, citing workplace harassment. Dorsa added an FCA retaliation claim.The government investigated the FCA claims and, in 2018, intervened for purposes of settlement, under which Miraca agreed to pay $63.5 million to resolve FCA claims. Miraca moved to dismiss the remaining retaliation claim, citing the arbitration clause, Dorsa argued that the clause did not apply because his claim was independent from the employment agreement. Miraca then asserted that the court did not have the authority to decide a threshold question of arbitrability. The district court ruled in favor of Dorsa. Miraca later moved to stay the proceedings and compel arbitration. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the denial of that motion. Miraca forfeited and waived its arguments about the district court’s authority to decide threshold questions of arbitrability and its ruling on the merits. Filing the motion to dismiss was inconsistent with Miraca’s later attempts to rely on the arbitration agreement. View "Dorsa v. Miraca Life Sciences, Inc." on Justia Law
Harris v. County of Orange
In 1993, the County and the Orange County Employee Retirement System (OCERS) entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), allowing the County to access surplus investment earnings controlled by OCERS and depositing a portion of the surplus into an account to pay for county retirees' health insurance. The county adopted the Retiree Medical Plan, funded by those investment earnings and mandatory employee deductions. The Plan explicitly provided that it did not create any vested rights. The labor unions then entered into MOUs, requiring the county to administer the Plan and that retirees receive a Medical Insurance Grant. In 1993-2007, retired employees received a monthly grant benefit to defray the cost of health insurance. In 2004, the county negotiated with its unions to restructure the underfunded program, reducing benefits for retirees.Plaintiffs filed suit. The Ninth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the county. The 1993 Plan explicitly provided that it did not create any vested right to benefits. The Plan was adopted by resolution and became law with respect to Grant Benefits, part of the MOUs. The MOUs expired on their own terms by a specific date. Absent express language providing that the Grant Benefits vested, the right to the benefits expired when the MOUs expired. The Plan was not unilaterally imposed on the unions and their employees without collective bargaining; the unions executed MOUs adopting the Plan. The court rejected an assertion that the Grant Benefit was deferred compensation and vested upon retirement, similar to pension benefits. View "Harris v. County of Orange" on Justia Law
Smith v. CSRA, Inc.
In 2013, Smith began working with DEA as a subcontractor in the geospatial intelligence program. Smith has a disability that adversely affects her mobility; she was granted accommodations. In 2015, Smith was authorized to work remotely 50 percent of the time. Through 2017, Smith received positive performance reviews. Smith’s position did not change in 2016 when CRSA became the prime contractor. In 2017, Quinn, DEA’s Acting Deputy Assistant Administrator became dissatisfied when Smith was unable to answer questions about the Program. Quinn directed that Smith begin reporting to DEA headquarters. Smith lobbied to maintain her remote work arrangement. DEA officials did not respond to Smith’s request but, because of parking and transportation problems, Smith intermittently continued to work remotely despite notification that she was not authorized to do so. DEA concluded it could not grant the request; the CSRA contract did not expressly provide for remote work and DEA’s building lease limited the issuance of parking passes to employees. DEA alleges that it developed concerns about Smith’s technical skills and performance.DEA officials retrieved the equipment that supported Smith’s remote access and revoked Smith’s security clearance. CSRA terminated the Consultant Agreement. Smith sued, alleging disability discrimination and retaliation under the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. 791, against DEA, and violations of the Rehabilitation Act and the ADA, 42 U.S.C. 12101, against CSRA. The district court rejected the claims on summary judgment.The Fourth Circuit affirmed as to Smith’s disability discrimination claim but vacated as to her retaliation claim. Smith was an independent contractor and not a CSRA employee. DEA was not required to offer Smith a remote work accommodation and its failure to do so was not a refusal to accommodate but Smith established a prima facie case of retaliation. View "Smith v. CSRA, Inc." on Justia Law
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers v. Farfield Co
In 2002, Farfield contracted with SEPTA for improvements on Philadelphia-area railroad tracks. The federal government partially funded the project. Work concluded in 2007. As required by federal regulation, Department of Labor (DOL) prevailing wage determinations were incorporated into the contract. Farfield was required to submit to SEPTA for transmission to the Federal Transit Administration a copy of Farfield’s certified payroll, setting out all the information required under the Davis-Bacon Act, 40 U.S.C. 3142(a), with a “Statement of Compliance” averring that the information in the payroll was correct and complete and that each worker was paid not less than the applicable wage rates and benefits for the classification of work performed, as specified in the applicable wage determination. Falsification of a payroll certification could subject Farfield to criminal penalties or civil liability under the False Claims Act (FCA).A union business manager suspected that Farfield had won government contracts with low bids by intending to pay less-skilled workers to perform certain work that would otherwise have been the bailiwick of higher-skilled, higher-paid workers. Ultimately, the union filed a qui tam FCA complaint. The United States declined to intervene. The court entered a $1,055,320.62 judgment against Farfield: $738,724.43 to the government and $316,596.19 to the union, plus $1,229,927.55 in attorney fees and $203,226.45 in costs. The Third Circuit affirmed. In view of the totality of the circumstances, Farfield’s Davis-Bacon violations were not minor or insubstantial. View "International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers v. Farfield Co" on Justia Law
Valerio v. Moore Landscapes, LLC
The plaintiffs, 12 tree planters who allegedly worked for Moore Landscapes under contracts that Moore executed with the Chicago Park District, sought unpaid wages, statutory damages, prejudgment interest on back-pay, and reasonable attorney fees and costs under the Illinois Prevailing Wage Act, 820 ILCS 130/11. They alleged that Moore improperly paid them an hourly rate of $18 instead of the prevailing hourly wage rate of $41.20.The appellate court reversed the circuit court’s dismissal order. The Illinois Supreme Court reinstated the dismissal. The Park District and Moore did not stipulate rates for work done under the contracts. The Act provides that, when the public body does not include a sufficient stipulation in a contract, the potential liabilities of the contractor are narrower than those provided under section 11, when a contractor disregards a clear contractual stipulation to pay prevailing wage rates, and “shall be limited to the difference between the actual amount paid and the prevailing rate of wages required to be paid for the project. View "Valerio v. Moore Landscapes, LLC" on Justia Law
Dat Luong DBA LVDH Construction v. Western Surety Co.
The employee of a subcontractor on a state public works project sued the prime contractor’s surety bond for unpaid labor under Alaska’s Little Miller Act. The trial court ruled the employee failed to give notice to the contractor within the statutorily required 90 days of his last date of labor on the project. The trial court entered a directed verdict against the employee. The employee appealed to the superior court, which denied the appeal, and then petitioned the Alaska Supreme Court for hearing. This case presented two issues of first impression: (1) how to define “labor;” and (2) whether “notice” was effective on the date of mailing or the date of receipt. Under the Little Miller Act, the Supreme Court defined “labor” as work that was “necessary to and forwards” the project secured by the payment bond, and held the effective date of “notice” to be the date notice is sent via registered mail. The superior court judgment denying the employee's appeal was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Dat Luong DBA LVDH Construction v. Western Surety Co." on Justia Law
Felten v. William Beaumont Hospital
In 2010, Felten filed a qui tam complaint alleging that his then-employer, Beaumont Hospital, was violating the False Claims Act (FCA), 31 U.S.C. 3730(h), and the Michigan Medicaid False Claims Act by paying kickbacks to physicians and physicians’ groups in exchange for referrals of Medicare, Medicaid, and TRICARE patients. Felten also alleged that Beaumont had retaliated against him by threatening and “marginaliz[ing]” him for insisting on compliance with the law. After the government intervened and settled the case against Beaumont, the district court dismissed the remaining claims, except those for retaliation and attorneys’ fees and costs.Felten amended his complaint to add allegations of retaliation that took place after he filed his initial complaint: he was terminated after Beaumont falsely represented to him that an internal report suggested that he be replaced and that his position was subject to mandatory retirement. Felten further alleged that he had been unable to obtain a comparable position in academic medicine because Beaumont “intentionally maligned [him].”The district court dismissed the allegations of retaliatory conduct occurring after Felten’s termination. The Sixth Circuit vacated. The FCA’s anti-retaliation provision protects a relator from a defendant’s retaliation after the relator’s termination. View "Felten v. William Beaumont Hospital" on Justia Law
Braun v. Department of Health and Human Services
Dr. Braun worked at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for almost 32 years as a research doctor with a specialty in neurological disorders. He obtained tenured status in 2003. In 2016, the NIH, which is located within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, removed Dr. Braun from his position after an audit revealed that his records were incomplete for all but 9% of the human subjects who had participated in his research over the course of six years.The Merit Systems Protection Board rejected Braun’s argument that an NIH policy required de-tenuring of tenured scientists (which NIH had not done in his case) before they could be removed for performance-related reasons and that the NIH committed certain other errors. The Board reasoned that the cited NIH policy allows removal “for cause” without de-tenuring. The Federal Circuit affirmed. The “for cause” provision was properly applied to this case. The evidence permitted the conclusions that Dr. Braun, “over a long period of time,” failed to a “dramatic and disturbing” degree, to comply with protocol requirements that exist “for the safety of the patients and the credibility of the research.” There was no denial of due process. View "Braun v. Department of Health and Human Services" on Justia Law
G4S International Employment Services (Jersey), Ltd. v. Newton-Sealey
The Second Circuit denied a petition for review of the Benefit Review Board's decision affirming the ALJ's award of disability benefits to an employee of a defense contractor under the Defense Base Act (DBA), which extends workers' compensation benefits under the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act to certain employees of U.S. government contractors working overseas.In this case, the employee alleged that his injuries arose out of and in the course of his employment, thereby establishing a prima facie case for benefits under the LHWCA. The court held that the record supports the Board's conclusion that petitioner failed to present sufficient evidence to prove that the named defendants were not employers. Therefore, the Board did not err when it affirmed the ALJ's finding that the employee's claims were not barred under Section 933(g) of the LHWCA. View "G4S International Employment Services (Jersey), Ltd. v. Newton-Sealey" on Justia Law
Oliva v. United States
Oliva worked for the VA, 2000-2016. In 2015, Oliva challenged the VA’s issuance of a letter of reprimand for Oliva accusing a supervisor of improperly pre-selecting an applicant for a position; Oliva claimed that his email constituted protected whistleblowing. Under a Settlement Agreement, the VA agreed to provide a written reference and the assurance of a positive verbal reference, if requested; Oliva’s Waco supervisor would not mention the retracted reprimand. Oliva was terminated from his employment in April 2016, for performance reasons. Oliva claims that the VA twice breached the Settlement: in March 2015, when Oliva applied for a position in the VA’s El Paso medical center the reprimand letter was disclosed and in February 2016, when Oliva applied for a position in the VA’s Greenville healthcare center a Waco employee disclosed that Oliva was on a Temporary Duty Assignment.The Claims Court held that Oliva’s complaint plausibly alleged breaches of the Agreement that resulted in the loss of future employment opportunities. Oliva sought $289,564 in lost salary and lost relocation pay of either $86,304 or $87,312. The Claims Court then held that Oliva had not stated plausible claims to recover lost salary or relocation pay. The Federal Circuit reversed. Oliva plausibly claimed that the alleged breaches were the cause of his lost salary. Oliva’s termination from his Waco job does not undercut that plausibility. View "Oliva v. United States" on Justia Law