DOL Settles Whistleblower Suit against Navy Contractor

The employee had complained to company management for being required to climb microwave towers, work in manholes, and enter asbestos-filled buildings without safety training or equipment while working at several San Diego military installations.

The U.S. Department of Labor has reached a $45,000 settlement agreement with Westfield, Mass.-based U.S. Navy contractor NWS Corp. after finding that the company wrongfully terminated an employee working at San Diego-area naval installations.

An investigation by OSHA determined that the employee was terminated for filing a safety complaint with the state OSHA program, Cal/OSHA. The employee previously had complained to NWS management for being required to climb microwave towers, work in manholes, and enter asbestos-filled buildings without safety training or equipment while working at several San Diego military installations, including the Naval Amphibious Base at Coronado, the Naval Air Station at North Island, and the Naval Air Station OLF at Imperial Beach. NWS was under contract to perform installation, construction, and maintenance of cable and Internet systems for the Navy.

"We will vigorously pursue employers who attempt to stifle workers' voices," said Ken Atha, OSHA's regional administrator in San Francisco. "NWS Corp. made a serious mistake by taking action against a worker who complained about unsafe working conditions and by failing to make restitution following OSHA's findings."

The Labor Department's Office of the Solicitor filed a suit on behalf of the secretary of labor in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California on June 7, 2010, after NWS Corp. refused to reinstate the worker to the same or an equivalent position, and refused to pay back wages and other employment benefits.

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