Who Is Qualified To Be A Relator In A Qui Tam Action?

Who Is Qualified To Be A Relator In A Qui Tam Action

In order for people to serve as relators in qui tam actions, they must meet certain parameters. The False Claims Act and the courts have outlined the requirements that people must meet. People who have knowledge of fraud against the government may want to talk to the attorneys at Swartz Swidler about whether or not they are able to serve as relators.

Eligiblity to be a relator

Relators are people who bring qui tam actions for the U.S. government. They do not need to have suffered personal harm from the violations that they report. While people are able to serve as relators, there are certain things to know.

In most cases, relators are former or current employees of the entity that has defrauded the U.S. government or contractors who have done business with the entity. Relators must have information about the fraud that the general public cannot access. The government is willing to share the proceeds it collects with relators because they are giving the government access to information that the government could otherwise not obtain. Relators also cannot be federal employees.

Informal qualifications of a relator

There are also some informal requirements that may help people who serve as relators. People who are able to handle risk may do better in the role. People who decide to blow the whistle on their employers for fraud are likely to suffer workplace retaliation. If they are fired, they might have trouble securing employment with the same or a similar company again.

Relators must consider the potential rewards and the risks of serving in the role. They might want to think about how much money they might receive as well as how hard it might be to prove that the fraud has occurred. They should understand the risks that are involved when they report company fraud to the government.

Some relators are motivated to serve in the role because of their moral convictions. These people want to report the fraudulent activities because they are unlawful, unethical or improper. Since there are substantial risks, relators who are not serving in the role for the potential monetary rewards will need to have a strong belief in what’s right so that they can continue pursuing the action.

Contact Swartz Swidler

If you believe that you have knowledge of fraud against the government and have the qualifications that you will need to serve as a qui tam relator, you may need legal help. Contact the experienced attorneys at Swartz Swidler today.

How To Report Sexual Harassment at Work in New Jersey

How To Report Sexual Harassment at Work in New Jersey

Despite the prohibitions against workplace sexual harassment in New Jersey, it remains to be a prevalent problem. People who are the victims of sexual harassment often feel as if they have no power. When this behavior happens at work, some people are concerned that they may lose their jobs if they complain. In reality, workers who are the victims of sexual harassment can take steps to end it through both informal and formal processes. The legal team at Swartz Swidler is available to guide sexual harassment victims through the process.

Speak out

In some cases, the people who are responsible for sexual harassment may not understand that others consider their conduct to be offensive. This is especially true in hostile work environment sexual harassment cases. The first step that you should take in this type of case is to confront the perpetrator. Many times, this will be enough to end the harassment. Even if it continues, you will have placed the harasser on notice.

File a complaint with your employer

If confronting the harasser doesn’t put an end to his or her behavior, your next step is to file a formal complaint with your employer. Check with your company for its procedure for filing sexual harassment complaints, and follow it. If there isn’t a procedure in place, complain to your supervisor. If your supervisor is the harasser, complain to his or her supervisor. You should document all incidents of harassment with their dates, times and the names of witnesses. Your complaint should be filed in writing, and you should keep a copy of it as well.

Filing an administrative charge

If your company fails to investigate your complaint, does nothing or retaliates against you, your next step is to file an administrative charge of discrimination. You can file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or with the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights within the Office of the Attorney General. If the agency is unable to resolve your charge but determines that it is valid, you will be given a letter notifying you of your right to sue.

Litigation

If you receive a right to sue letter, you are able to file a lawsuit against your employer in state or federal court. The attorneys at Swartz Swidler may assist you with filing the civil complaint in the appropriate court. Through a lawsuit, you may be able to receive the following:

  • Reinstatement to your former job
  • Back pay
  • The value of lost fringe benefits
  • Emotional distress damages
  • An order for your employer to implement training and policies to end harassment
  • Your legal costs and attorney’s fees

If you are the victim of sexual harassment, the attorneys at Swartz Swidler may guide you through the complaint process. Contact us today to schedule your consultation.

Sexual Assault Laws: 4 Things Every Woman Needs To Know In 2018

Sexual Assault Laws: 4 Things Every Woman Needs To Know In 2018

Sexual assault laws are confusing to many victims, and they vary from state to state. Even in situations in which the victim has physical evidence to support the claim, many of these cases never are filed in criminal court. It is important to understand the sexual assault laws as well as the potential for obtaining legal remedies if you have been a victim. The attorneys at Swartz Swidler might be able to advise you about your rights. Here are four things that you should know about sexual assault laws.

1. Each state has its own statute of limitation.

Every state has a statute of limitations, which is the time period within which a lawsuit can be filed or a crime report can be made. In the case of a sexual assault, some states only allow victims a period of a few years to file criminal cases while others allow decades. If the victims were minors at the time of the offenses, the statutes of limitations differ. Newly discovered DNA evidence may also change the statute of limitations if the perpetrator was previously unknown.

2. Many sexual assault cases are never prosecuted.

According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, fewer than half of all rapes are reported to law enforcement. Out of those that are reported, only 12 incidents will result in arrests. Among those who are arrested, just nine of the cases will be prosecuted, and only three of the perpetrators will serve more than one day in jail or prison.

In the criminal justice system, prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused committed the crime before the defendant can be found guilty. This burden of proof is much higher than the burden of proof that is required in civil cases. As a result, many prosecutors will not take cases that they have questions about whether they can win. Consequently, a greater number of sexual assault cases proceed through civil court instead of criminal court.

3. National hotlines are available to victims.

It can be very difficult to understand what to do after you have been the victim of a sexual assault. Whether you are wanting help to bring a criminal or civil case, there are many resources that are available to help you. Some of the available hotlines include the following:

4. The burden of proof is on the victim.

If your case is prosecuted in criminal court, you will go through an arduous process during which you will have to tell your story numerous times. The prosecutor has the burden of proof to prove that the defendant committed the crime. In some cases, physical evidence is not available to prove a definite link between the defendant and the crime. For example, some perpetrators force their victims to take showers and use condoms, washing away evidence that might otherwise have existed.

When physical evidence doesn’t exist, these cases often turn on the victims’ words versus those of her attackers. This can make the cases very difficult if the victims had any prior relationships with their attackers. When the victims are intoxicated, jurors will sometimes place blame on the victims even though the attacks were not their fault.

Get legal help

If you have been the victim of a sexual assault, you might need legal help. The attorneys at Swartz Swidler might be able to offer you guidance about reporting what happened to you. They may also be able to assist you with filing a civil lawsuit against the attacker for the harms that you have suffered whether or not your case is criminally prosecuted. Call us today or complete our contact form to learn more about the rights that you might have.

When Does Sexual Harassment at Work Become a Crime?

When Does Sexual Harassment at Work Become a Crime

Victims of workplace sexual harassment can be greatly impacted. They might have trouble performing the tasks of their jobs. They may also be prevented from getting promotions and might also lose their jobs. While workers are able to seek relief through the civil process for workplace sexual harassment, the civil laws do not make the conduct criminal.

In some cases, however, sexual harassment may cross the line into criminality. If the conduct that has been directed at you is also criminal in nature, it is important for you to recognize it and to understand what to do. The experienced lawyers at Swartz Swidler might help you with the civil process while also advising you about how to report the conduct to the authorities.

Understanding sexual harassment

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, workplace sexual harassment is a prohibited form of sex discrimination. It consists of sexual conduct that is unwelcome and that is either used as a basis for making employment decisions or that creates a workplace environment that is hostile.

Sexual harassment may include physical and verbal actions such as repeated comments, requests for sexual acts, unwanted touching, unwanted advances and sexual acts. In some cases, prohibited sexual harassment may also be criminal.

When does sexual harassment rise to the level of a crime?

Some forms of sexual harassment are obviously criminal in nature such as a sexual assault at work. Others are not as clear such as verbal sexual harassment. The local criminal laws in your jurisdiction will control whether such conduct is also a crime. Here are several examples of state law that might make workplace sexual harassment criminal in nature.

Rape, unwanted touching and sexual abuse

Rape is illegal under the laws of Pennsylvania and New Jersey and includes penetration without consent. In addition, criminal sexual contact may include unwanted touching of a victim’s sex organs or forced touching of the perpetrator’s sex organs. The unwanted touching can be over clothing and still be criminal if it is done without consent.

  • Assault

In some cases, a person may be physically assaulted by a harasser. Even if the assault is not a sexual assault, the physical contact may be a crime. Examples of criminal assaults that might be done for purposes of intimidation may include such things as hitting, pushing or other physical contacts. If you are assaulted at work by your harasser, you may press criminal charges in addition to filing discrimination complaints. Your attorneys at Swartz Swidler can help to guide you through the process.

  • Menacing

Under the laws of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, menacing can constitute a simple assault. Menacing occurs when the harassers make physical threats against the victims in an effort to place them in imminent fear of injury or death through threats. Menacing is a crime in both states.

  • Stalking

Commonly, sexual harassers at work engage in a pattern of ongoing behavior. If the conduct is repeated, it may fall under the definition of stalking. The harassers may be guilty of criminal stalking when they engage in repeated acts that cause the victims to feel reasonably fearful for their own safety or that of others. An example of this type of conduct could include repeated phone calls or text messages from a coworker or supervisor or being repeatedly followed.

  • Unlawful imprisonment

If your movement at work is restricted by another person at your job, it might rise to the level of criminal unlawful imprisonment. Unlawful imprisonment occurs when your movement is restricted in such a way that your liberty is substantially limited. In the context of workplace sexual harassment, you may be unlawfully imprisoned if your supervisor or a co-worker demands sexual favors or makes unwelcome sexual advances in an office and prevents you from leaving.

What to do if you have been the victim of criminal conduct and sexual harassment

If you have been the victim of sexual harassment that rises to the level of a crime at your job, you should report what happened to the police. Law enforcement authorities can help you with filing your criminal complaint. You should also contact the employment lawyers at Swartz Swidler for advice about your corresponding civil claim. You may be able to receive redress through both the criminal and civil justice systems.

Contact Swartz Swidler today to learn more about how to handle your case.

When Does Flirting And Bantering Cross The Line?

When Does Flirting And Bantering Cross The Line

As stories of powerful people who have allegedly sexually harassed or assaulted women consume the news cycle, some people in New Jersey and Pennsylvania might wonder where to draw the line between harmless flirting and bantering at their workplaces and sexual harassment. In the workplace, sexual harassment is illegal under both state and federal law.

Some workers and employers are uncertain what constitutes illegal behavior and what is prohibited sexual harassment. If you believe that you have been the victim of sexual harassment at work, you might want to talk to the experienced employment lawyers at Swartz Swidler to learn about your potential rights.

Flirting and banter vs. sexual harassment

Many workplaces have long been marked by harmless flirting and inappropriate jokes. This type of conduct may cross the line into illegal conduct when it is unwelcome. However, it may be difficult to know when flirting or joking is unwelcome. Under the law, people who feel harassed by flirting or inappropriate jokes must speak up. In general, courts will not find that illegal sexual harassment has occurred unless there are multiple incidents that are ongoing despite documented complaints.

While most people might find crude jokes to be uncomfortable, they are generally not considered to be illegal sexual harassment when they are not directed toward individual people at work. If you feel uncomfortable about the banter that happens at your job or because of flirting, you should tell a supervisor about your discomfort.

Workplace sexual harassment policies

There are regulations in place that help employers to establish sexual harassment policies at their workplaces. If your workplace has become a hostile working environment to such an extent that it is difficult for you to be able to perform your job duties because of ongoing sexual harassment, you must follow your employer’s complaint procedures before you can file a discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Your employer must have notice of the harassment and an opportunity to investigate your complaint. If your employer does not investigate your complaint or retaliates against you for complaining, you may have legal rights.

How Our Attorneys might help

If you have been the victim of workplace sexual harassment, an experienced employment lawyer may guide you through the steps of the internal complaint process at your job. Your complaint must be submitted in writing and follow the policies of your company. You should document all instances of harassment with the dates, times, what was said and who was present. If your employer fails to investigate your complaint or to take appropriate action, your attorney may assist you with filing a discrimination charge with the EEOC or the corresponding state agency.

Contact Swartz Swidler to learn more about your potential claim and to get help.

What You Need To Know About Wrongful Termination In New Jersey

What You Need To Know About Wrongful Termination In New Jersey

It is common for people to feel like they were fired for reasons that were unfair when they are terminated from their jobs. However, most people in New Jersey are at-will employees, meaning that their employers may fire them whenever they want and for nearly any reason. There are some reasons for terminating workers that are illegal. When employers fire workers who are members of protected classes because of their statuses, the terminations are considered to be illegal. If you believe that you lost your job because of your membership in a protected class, the attorneys at Swartz Swidler might be able to help you.

Under New Jersey law, the protected classes include the following:

It is also illegal for employers to fire workers for engaging in protected conduct, including the following:

  • Serving in the military
  • Complaining about discrimination to your supervisor
  • Complaining about actions of your employer that you believe to be fraudulent or illegal

What does at-will employment mean?

New Jersey is an at-will employment state. This means that you can be fired at any time and for any reason. You also are able to leave your job whenever you want. Most employees work at will in the state. If you instead have a contract that protects your job, you are not an at-will worker. In that case, your employer must adhere to the provisions of your contract.

Even if you are an at-will employee, your employer still is prohibited from terminating you based on your protected class or your engagement in protected activities because the termination would be in violation of public policy or of the law. You may also have grounds to sue if you have an implied or express contract. An implied contract might exist if you have a handbook that includes language regarding the disciplinary process that must be followed leading up to termination, for example.

Get help from an experienced employment lawyer

Determining whether or not your termination was wrongful may be difficult. The employment lawyers at Swartz Swidler are experienced in handling wrongful termination claims and can offer you honest evaluations of your claim. Contact our office today to schedule an appointment so that you can learn more about your case.

Payday Laws: What To Do If Your Paycheck Is Late

Payday Laws What To Do If Your Paycheck Is Late

The laws of Pennsylvania and New Jersey determine how often employees in both states must be paid. In both states, employers are required to pay their workers at least twice each month, but they are allowed to pay them more frequently if they wish. These laws do not cover independent contractors. Instead, their payments should be spelled out in their written contracts. People who are incorrectly classified as independent contractors are covered under the laws. If you are not receiving your pay on a timely basis, the employment lawyers at Swartz Swidler might be able to help.

Payday laws

The laws that govern the regularity and frequency of paychecks vary between the states, but a majority operate in similar fashions. For instance, most states mandate that employees are paid weekly, biweekly, semi-monthly or monthly. Pennsylvania and New Jersey both mandate that employees are paid twice each month although they may pay them differently if they stipulate to doing so in an employment contract.

In New Jersey, highly paid executives and non-exempt employees may be paid once monthly by their employers. Pennsylvania’s law mandating at least twice-monthly payments applies to non-salaried workers.

What you can do if your paycheck is late

There are several things that you can do if your paycheck is late. It is important to start by contacting your employer in writing. You should ask that your employer pays the wages that you are owed. If your employer does not do so, then you can file a claim with either the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry or the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

You can also file a lawsuit against your employer in court. If the amount in question is small, you can file a small claims lawsuit. If not, you can file it in a higher-level court. If you have a large claim involving late payments or violations of payday laws, you might want to consider hiring an employment lawyer for help.

Contact an experienced lawyer

Employers in New Jersey and Pennsylvania are not allowed to pay their employees whenever they want. They must adhere to the state and federal laws. If you have not been paid for your work, it can cause a domino effect for your finances. Contact Swartz Swidler to find out what you might do so that you can recover the money that you are owed.

How Much Can I Get When Suing My Employer For Discrimination?

How Much Can I Get When Suing My Employer For Discrimination

People who have been the victim of workplace discrimination or harassment might wonder how much they might expect to recover if they file lawsuits against their employers. While some cases do proceed to trial, a majority are settled outside of the court process. If you have been the victim of discrimination or harassment at your job, the attorneys at Swartz Swidler might value your claim and advise you of the amount that you might expect to recover.

Income losses

If you were fired from your job illegally, you may recover the salary and benefits that you would have received if you were not fired. It is important for you to understand that you are expected to have tried to mitigate your damages by trying to find a new job. If you haven’t attempted to do so, your claim’s value may be significantly reduced.

Emotional distress damages

In some cases, workers are able to successfully sue for the emotional stress that their employers’ conduct has caused them. In order to prove that you have suffered emotional harm, you will likely need to have a mental health professional testify on your behalf. You will not need to have been diagnosed with a condition such as anxiety or depression. It is possible to recover damages for the type of stress that people experience when they are terminated from their jobs.

Are you in a position to file a lawsuit?

An employment lawyer at Swartz Swidler may discuss several things with you in order to determine whether or not you are in a position to file a lawsuit against your employer. Your lawyer will explain that lawsuits are very long and sometimes take years before they reach settlements. Employers often defend against lawsuits aggressively and are slow to settle because of concerns that other workers will also file lawsuits.

Your attorney might also explain that your former employer may attack your reputation. In order to defend against claims of discrimination, some employers claim that they had other reasons to fire their employees. To make these claims, they may try to prove that you were a poor employee.

You will need to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your claim. Then, you will need to work together with your attorney to determine what a reasonable demand for settlement should be. Finally, you will need to decide whether or not you are willing to go through the lengthy process so that you can potentially recover compensation and hold your employer accountable.

How strong is your claim?

Your attorney will also evaluate the strength of your claim when determining its value. If it is not a strong case, the attorneys at Swartz Swidler will provide you with an honest assessment.

The attorneys at Swartz Swidler are focused on employment law and work hard to help their clients who have suffered from illegal discrimination. If you believe that your employer has discriminated against you, contact us today to schedule your consultation.

Were You Forced To Quit? Understanding Constructive Discharge

Were You Forced To Quit- Understanding Constructive Discharge

It is fairly common for some employees to quit their jobs because they find the working conditions to be intolerable. A constructive discharge occurs when an employee is forced to quit because of working conditions that are illegal. Even if you quit your job, you may have valid grounds to file a wrongful termination lawsuit if your employer attempted to force you out for illegal reasons. The attorneys at Swartz Swidler may be able to help you to determine whether or not you have the grounds for a lawsuit.

What is a constructive discharge?

If you felt that the conditions at your job were so bad that your only choice was to quit, it is a constructive discharge. Under the law, you will be treated as having been fired because you were pushed out.

Proving that you had no choice but to quit

In order to prevail on a constructive discharge claim, you will need to be able to prove the following elements:

  • The working conditions that you were subjected to were illegal.
  • You filed a complaint about the conditions, but the conditions continued.
  • The conditions were so poor that any reasonable person in your position would have quit.
  • You quit your job because of the poor treatment that you received.

If you prevail in a claim of constructive discharge, you will be able to recover monetary damages from your former employer.

Proving that your constructive discharge was illegal

A majority of employees are at will, meaning that their employers can fire them at any time as long as the reason for doing so is not illegal. Simply proving that you were forced to quit is not enough. You must also prove that the reason that you were forced to quit were illegal. Examples of illegal reasons could include ongoing sexual harassment, retaliation for complaints and others.

Discrimination and harassment

If you are a member of a protected class and were discriminated against by your employer or coworkers, you may have a constructive discharge case if you quit because of it. You may want to ask your lawyers at Swartz Swidler if you have sufficient grounds under this basis.

Retaliation

Employers are prohibited under multiple state and federal laws from retaliating against workers for engaging in a protected activity. This may include filing discrimination complaints, applying for workers’ compensation benefits, whistleblowing or complaining about sexual harassment. If your employer took any adverse job action against you, you may have the grounds to sue.

Breach of contract

If you were employed under a contract that stated that you could only be fired for cause, you may be able to sue your employer for breaching the contract if he or she forced you to quit.

Potential damages

If you prevail on your claim, your employer will have to pay you monetary damages. The damages that might be available to you will depend on why your employer forced you to quit. You may be entitled to the following:

  • Back pay
  • Front pay
  • Legal and attorney fees
  • Compensatory damages
  • Punitive damages if your employer’s actions were especially egregious
  • Unemployment Benefits

Employees who quit their jobs voluntarily are normally ineligible for unemployment benefits. However, you may be able to collect them if your quitting was a constructive discharge. You will need to explain that you quit because of your employer mistreating you when you apply.

Contact an attorney

Proving a constructive discharge claim may be difficult. If you believe that your employer forced you to quit because of an illegal reason, contact Swartz Swidler to learn more about the rights that you might have.

Can I Be Fired Because of My Tattoos?

Can I Be Fired Because of My Tattoos-

If you have tattoos, you might wonder if it is legal for your employer to fire you because of them or to make you cover them while you are working. Whether or not your employer can fire you for your tattoos or require you to cover them will depend on the dress code and grooming policies that your employer has in place. It will also depend on whether or not your employer is consistent in enforcing those policies and whether or not your tattoos have religious significance for you. The attorneys at Swartz Swidler might help you to determine if you were treated wrongfully because of your tattoos.

Employer grooming and dress code policies

Employers are allowed to implement grooming standards and dress codes in their workplaces. For instance, a doctor’s office might require front-office employees to dress in business clothing while a restaurant might mandate that its servers wear pants and shirts of specific styles and colors.

Some workplaces likewise have policies about employees who have tattoos. They might ask that employees cover them up while they are working with clients or customers. Appearance policies are legal unless they violate federal and state laws that prohibit discrimination. These policies may also be illegal if they are applied in discriminatory ways.

Anti-discrimination laws

Employers are prohibited from taking adverse job actions based on certain protected characteristics, including color, race, sex, national origin and religion. There are also laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of age, disability and genetic information. In New Jersey, the Law Against Discrimination provides protection under state law.

Employers who apply their grooming policies in discriminatory ways may be in violation of the law. For instance, if employers require their Hispanic workers to cover their Spanish-language tattoos because they believe that they might be perceived as gang-related, that would be prohibited discrimination based on the workers’ national origin. Employers who enforce their policies on the basis of sex may also be in violation of the law.Some employees with religious tattoos who were asked to cover them or fired because of their tattoos have sued on the basis of religious discrimination.

Freedom of speech

Some people think that their First Amendment rights are violated when their employers require them to cover their tattoos. The First Amendment only protects people from governmental efforts to stifle speech. Private-sector employers are private actors and are not covered under the requirements of the First Amendment.

Contact an experienced employment law attorney

If you believe that your employer applied its appearance policy in a discriminatory way against you, you might be able to file a lawsuit. Contact Swartz Swidler to schedule your consultation today.