NY Apartment Complex Agrees to Pay $66,000 to Whistleblower

An employee of an apartment complex in Flushing, N.Y., was ordered to clean up insecticide residue in the complex's basement despite his not having been trained in the handling of hazardous materials and the absence of personal protective equipment. Concerned for his health and safety, the worker repeatedly asked for protective equipment and, according to OSHA, was fired as a result. Following a DOL investigation and legal action, the apartment owner, Second Housing Co. Inc., has agreed to pay $66,000 to the former employee, the agency said yesterday.

OSHA's whistleblower investigation found that Second Housing had discharged the employee in retaliation for his raising legitimate safety and health concerns. Under a consent judgment signed Jan. 24 by U.S. District Judge Eric N. Vitaliano, the company will pay the back wages, plus interest, and inform its employees of their whistleblower rights under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. If payment is not made, the court will appoint a receiver with the power to liquidate the company's assets to secure compliance with the monetary terms of the judgment, the agency said.

"All employees have the right to safe and healthful working conditions without fear of retaliation or termination," said Louis Ricca Jr., OSHA's acting regional administrator in New York. "When that right is denied, the Labor Department will not hesitate to take appropriate and effective legal steps to ensure its restoration."

The judgment, which Second Housing agreed to without admitting or denying the charges, also prohibits the company from discharging or discriminating against any employee who files an OSHA complaint. The judgment was entered in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.

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