DOL Settles Encore Management Co. Whistleblower Suit

The U.S. Department of Labor has entered into a settlement with Encore Management Co. in Arlington to resolve findings by OSHA that the company illegally terminated an employee because she complained about safety and health issues.

OSHA whistleblower investigators found that Encore Management terminated the employee, who served as the community director at one of the apartment complexes it managed, after discovering she filed a complaint with the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) regarding possible asbestos exposure.

"Employees should be free to exercise their rights under the law without fear of termination or retaliation by their employers," said Dean W. McDaniel, OSHA's regional administrator in Dallas. "This settlement underscores the Labor Department's commitment to vigorously take action to protect those rights."

The employee expressed concerns to her supervisor that a renovation project at the complex was exposing workers to asbestos. When Encore Management failed to address the employee's concerns, she filed a complaint with DSHS, which conducted an inspection and found the apartment complex had not performed sufficient asbestos testing prior to beginning its renovation and had hired an unlicensed contractor to remove known asbestos material.

After being terminated, the employee filed a whistleblower complaint alleging she had been fired by Encore Management in retaliation for filing the complaint with DSHS. OSHA investigated the complaint and determined that Encore Management's termination of the employee was in violation of the whistleblower provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

The company entered into a voluntary settlement after OSHA referred the case to the Labor Department's Solicitor's Office for enforcement. Pursuant to the terms of the settlement, Encore Management paid the complainant $25,000 for lost wages, job seeking expenses, out of pocket medical expenses, and a year of future lost earnings. The company also agreed to provide the complainant with a neutral job reference and remove derogatory information related to her termination from her personnel file.

Encore Management, headquartered in California, provides property management services to several apartment complexes throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, area. OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the OSH Act and 16 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of various trucking, airline, nuclear power, pipeline, environmental, rail, and securities laws. Detailed information about employee whistleblower rights, including fact sheets, is available online at www.osha.gov/dep/oia/whistleblower/index.html.

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