AmeriGas, Blue Rhino Violated Anti-Trust Laws, Lawsuit Alleges

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AmeriGas Partners LP and Ferrellgas LP, the parent of Blue Rhino are being sued by direct propane buyers who allege that the companies violated anti-trust laws by conspiring to raise the price of propane in exchangeable steel tanks. The two companies, who control 80 percent of the propane market, allegedly schemed to raise prices by 13 percent.

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KBR Whistleblower Lawsuit to be Weighed by Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court will consider the fate of a whistleblower lawsuit filed against defense contracting giant KBR Inc. alleging that the company billed the government for work they did not do in Iraq. The case is KBR v. United States, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 12-1497.

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Workplace Nondisclosure Agreements Seem to Violate Federal Whistleblower Laws

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Nondisclosure agreements are sometimes used in the workplace to protect sensitive information, but it appears that some companies have overly restrictive agreements that may violate federal whistleblower laws. The law protects whistleblowers, individuals who report wrongdoing, from retaliatory action. If the information leads to recovered funds, the whistleblower is entitled to a portion of those damages.

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VA Whistleblowers who Spoke Up about Wait Times Faced Retaliation

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Staff members at the Department of Veterans Affairs faced retaliation when they spoke up about falsified patient-appointment schedules and other misconduct, The Columbus Dispatch reports. Whistleblowers at dozens of VA hospitals say in internal documents that they were targets for retaliation when speaking up.

The VA has been at the center of scandal over falsified wait times, which were used to ensure bonuses. The allegations began at the Phoenix VA, where Dr. Sam Foote said that he was ignored and then harassed for speaking out about administrators “cooking the books”. Dr. Foote told the Arizona Republic that the administrators “started coming after me,” when he reported the issue. He chose to retire early last year after being retaliated against.

Since the scandal began, the Project of Government Oversight, a private group working with whistleblowers, received complaints from about 175 current and former VA employees. The VA inspector general subpoenaed these reports last month, but the group has refused, stating that would compromise the whistleblowers’ confidentiality.

Now, many more employees are empowered to speak up and dozens of facilities have been implicated. The federal Office of Special Counsel is reviewing 37 claims of retaliation by VA employees in 19 states. The office, which investigates whistleblower complaints, recently convinced the VA to end the disciplining of three staff members.

In interviews with the New York Times, a half-dozen former VA staff members said that they faced retaliatory action for reporting problems in the system. The former staff members included four doctors, a nurse, and an office manager in Delaware, Pennsylvania and Alaska. Their stories, some of which are supported by internal documents, show that there is a “culture of silence and intimidation in the department and echo experiences detailed by other VA personnel in court filings, government investigations and congressional testimony” The Columbus Dispatch says.

Sloan D. Gibson, the acting VA secretary, acknowledged that the department has a history of retaliating against whistleblowers. “I understand that we’ve got a cultural issue there, and we’re going to deal with that cultural issue,” she said at a news conference this month in San Antonio. Gibson replaced Eric Shinseki after his resignation last month.

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Whistleblower in Boca gets $322,500 in Settlement

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A former utility department employee in Boca Raton, Florida will receive $322,500 as part a settlement to resolve her whistleblower lawsuit. According to The Palm Beach Post, the whistleblower filed the lawsuit in 2008 alleging that she was fired from her 23-year job for reporting drinking-water safety violations. In addition to the amount she will receive, the city paid about $390,000 in litigation costs.

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Police Chemist in Whistleblower Case Awarded $175,000

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A former police chemist in St. Louis, Missouri is being awarded $175,000 for her whistleblower claims alleging that she was fired for speaking up about drug testing errors in the crime lab. According to St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the jury handed down the verdict after five hours of deliberation.

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