Court Orders Commercial Laundry to Compensate Whistleblower

The U.S. Department of Labor has obtained a consent judgment ordering a commercial laundry in Auburn, N.Y., and its owner to compensate an employee who was fired for filing a complaint with OSHA about potentially unsafe conditions at the site.

The judgment, signed Jan. 26, 2009, by Chief Judge Norman A. Mordue of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York, requires that Party Rental Enterprises Inc., doing business as Able Linen Service, and Daryle Logudice, the company's chief executive officer, pay the former employee $20,000 in back wages, plus $17,000 in punitive damages, and expunge any references to suspension and discharge from the employee's personnel file (Chao v. Party Rental Enterprises Inc. d/b/a Able Linen Service and Daryle Logudice, No. 5:07-CV-0449).

The defendants are also permanently enjoined from violating the whistleblower provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 and from discharging or discriminating against employees who file complaints with OSHA, cooperate with OSHA investigations, or exercise their workplace safety and health rights. Finally, the OSHA whistleblower poster will be posted at company locations in Auburn, Cicero, and Liverpool, N.Y., and the OSHA whistleblower fact sheet will be provided to current employees and new hires to ensure they are aware of their rights.

The judgment is the result of extensive investigation and legal activity by the New York regional offices of OSHA and the solicitor of labor. The employee filed a whistleblower complaint with OSHA in 2005. OSHA found merit to the complaint and ordered the employee's reinstatement and payment of accrued wages and benefits. However, the company and its owner did not respond to the investigation, the order, administrative subpoenas, summonses, and other subsequent legal actions until after DOL secured a default judgment from the court in August 2008.

"Ignoring the law is no refuge from being subject to it," said Robert Kulick, OSHA's regional administrator in New York. "This employer's ongoing recalcitrance delayed but did not derail our efforts on behalf of the employee. We will not hesitate to pursue all appropriate legal remedies to protect employees' rights to contact OSHA with their safety and health concerns."

Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act protects employees' rights to file a complaint with OSHA or to bring safety and health issues to the attention of their employers without fear of termination or other reprisal. Detailed information about employees' and employers' rights and responsibilities under the whistleblower provisions of this and other statutes is available on OSHA's Web site at www.osha.gov/dep/oia/whistleblower/index.html.

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