Much has been asked of the doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. Our Executives & Professionals Practice Group is proud to represent several of them, and we owe all the frontline heroes and first responders our deepest gratitude - especially when hospitals that are short on staff and protective gear assign them new job duties to address patient needs. The irony is that when healthcare workers are deployed and redeployed where they are needed most, employers may limit those workers' rights and the ability to safeguard their health and their family members' well-being .
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to sweep the country, many patients infected with COVID-19 will need emergency medical care. Hospitals are seeing not only coronavirus carriers, but other patients seeking treatment for different conditions, ailments, and injuries. Although the federal government may enact temporary measures to fight the pandemic, the law is clear; emergency rooms cannot turn away patients needing emergency care, and they cannot retaliate against whistleblowers working in those hospitals who speak up when that happens.
There is no shortage of heroes in California during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially among the doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals. They put themselves in harm's way every day to help others. Not only do healthcare workers put their own health at risk by doing their jobs, but they also increase the chances that they may expose their families and loved ones to the virus. Given these sacrifices, it isn't unreasonable for such workers to expect the safest possible environment for doing their critical work. In fact, California law demands it.
When disasters strike - including the current coronavirus outbreak - price gouging, scams, and other fraud unfortunately follow. If the government is the entity being defrauded, however, whistleblowers have the power to expose the wrongdoing and protect the public, but they, too, need protection from unlawful retaliation.
It's no secret that one of the ways companies try to cut costs is through layoffs. Another method, which can be just as disruptive to employees, is by reducing pensions and other benefits earned while working for the employer. From well-known companies to state governments, retirement benefits seem to be a favorite target, and provisions in President Trump's proposed budget are also raising fears that retired federal employees would see their benefits shrink drastically over time.
An employee is informed by an employer health plan that surgery is approved, only to learn afterwards that the plan changed its mind and refused to pay over $77,000 in bills. The occasion of these simple and all-too-common facts gives the Seventh Circuit an opportunity to apply the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision Cigna Corp. v. Amara, 131 S. Ct. 1866 (2011). It holds that Cigna "substantially changes our understanding of the equitable relief available under section 1132(a)(3)" and expands judicial options for remedies, including monetary relief.