We are proud to inform our readers that another whistleblower has succeeded in exposing violations at a large corporation. This time it was a single mother taking on one of the largest time-share operators in the world. After a four year fight that included repeated settlement negotiations and a jury trial, justice won when a California state court awarded the whistleblower $20 million in financial losses, lost earnings, emotional distress and punitive damages.
As we have previously seen, this case involved an employee who saw illegal behavior and reported it only to then be retaliated against in the aftermath. In fact, after Ms. Williams reported the unlawful activity via the company’s integrity line, she was fired. Further, she was unable to find related work as a sales representative causing her severe emotional harm, familial troubles, and austere financial problems.
The complaint featured questionable sales techniques where sales representatives would take advantage of older time-share owners. Many of the promises were made with no real intention in follow through. Moreover, some of the verbal agreements were outright fibs when compared to what was actually signed for in the contracts. An example was that Wyndham representatives would say that they would buy back the ownership if the owners no longer wanted the time-shares. Further, credit cards were opened without approval. Those who were in charge of the sales representatives’ compliance were rewarded based on the production which is a direct conflict. Finally, when Ms. Williams can no longer tolerate such conduct, she contacted her internal compliance program and that is when she was subsequently terminated.
With determination, Ms. Williams’ attorneys fought every strategic move by Wyndham’s defense counsel. Indeed, when some of Ms. Williams’ former coworkers testified against her, the jury seemed to now trust the credibility of the testimony. The exposure of such tactics by Wyndham will undoubtedly reverberate throughout the industry in leading to more transparency behind the sales process. Already, we are informed that Wyndham has taken steps such as video recording the sales closing process to ensure the sales properly reflect what was agreed-to. See these other examples of whistleblower actions.
These types of recoveries show that such laws as the Whistleblower Protection Law, and its many updates, have served to protect our government’s resources and bring those culpable to justice. In support of the False Claims Act, California has several laws that protect whistleblowers to a greater degree than their federal counterparts. One of these laws prohibits retaliation against employees who “blow the whistle” by notifying a government agency on, or refuse to participate in, activity that would violate any laws or regulations in the workplace. (Labor Code Section 1102.5) This law was expanded in this past year by extending protection to employees who report suspected behavior not only externally to public entities but internally to a person with authority over the employee or to another employee with the authority to investigate, discover or correct the reported activity.
If you believe that your company has been violating laws in detriment to the government or retaining government program funds improperly, contact our office for a confidential and complimentary consultation with a false claims act whistleblower specialized attorney. In addition, if after reporting the company either internally or externally for such improper conduct, you experience discrimination or retaliation, prompt action to preserve your rights is vital. Contact the experienced employment law attorneys at Stephen Danz & Associates to discuss your circumstances and legal options.