DOL Files Whistleblower Suit against School Bus Company

The U.S. Department of Labor has filed suit against Cincinnati-based First Student Inc., and a former local manager for allegedly firing an employee of the school bus transportation service's branch in Syracuse, N.Y., who was discharged in October 2007 after raising safety and health concerns to the company.

The worker filed a whistleblower complaint with OSHA alleging retaliation by the defendants in violation of Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, which prohibits discharge or other retaliation against employees for filing a safety or health complaint, or for exercising a wide range of other rights afforded to them by the act.

OSHA's investigation found merit to the worker's complaint, and the agency sought reinstatement, back pay, and benefits for the worker from company and Thomas Waldron, former contract manager at the Syracuse location. The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York (Solis v. First Student Inc. and Thomas Waldron, Civil Action File Number: 10- cv – 426), seeks a judgment ordering all appropriate relief for the worker, including reinstatement, back pay with interest, and compensatory and punitive damages.

"It is unacceptable for employers to retaliate against employees who raise safety and health concerns," said Robert Kulick, OSHA's regional administrator in New York. "Employers will be held accountable if they violate workers' legal right to have a voice in the workplace on health and safety."

The lawsuit also seeks to permanently enjoin the defendants from future violations of the whistleblower provisions of the OSH Act and require them to post and comply with a prominently located workplace notice that they will not discriminate against employees who engage in activities protected under Section 11(c) of the OSH Act.

OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the OSH Act and 16 other statutes protecting workers who report violations of various trucking, airline, nuclear power, pipeline, environmental, rail, and securities laws. DOL does not release names of employees involved in whistleblower complaints.

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