DOL Sues Postal Service for Violating Whistleblower Protections

OSHA's investigation found that the Postal Service followed a pattern of adverse actions against the safety specialist after learning that he had assisted another employee in exercising her rights under the OSH Act and provided her with OSHA's contact information.

The U.S. Department of Labor has sued the U.S. Postal Service alleging discrimination and retaliation against a safety specialist who provided information to an employee wishing to file a safety complaint with OSHA.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, resulted from an investigation by OSHA that found the Postal Service had violated the whistleblower protection provisions of Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

"An employee's right to report unsafe and unhealthy workplace conditions must be protected to ensure that workers are not injured or sickened on the job," said Dean Ikeda, OSHA's regional administrator in Seattle. "Hostility and retaliation against whistleblowers are simply unacceptable."

OSHA's investigation determined that the Postal Service followed a pattern of adverse actions against the safety specialist, who was assigned to the Seattle Process and Distribution Center, after learning that he had assisted another employee in exercising her rights under the OSH Act and provided her with OSHA's contact information. That employee later filed a formal complaint with OSHA alleging unhealthful conditions at the facility. The specialist subsequently suffered a series of reprimands, was restricted from contact with staff at the facility and was transferred to an office without the necessary equipment to perform his job. The investigation also substantiated claims that the Postal Service reassigned many of the specialist's duties to an individual with a lower pay grade and did not select him for a promotion because of his interactions with OSHA despite acknowledging him as qualified for the position.

The Labor Department is asking the court to remedy the situation by ordering a permanent injunction against the Postal Service to prevent future violations of the law. The suit also asks for appropriate relief to the safety specialist, including the payment of lost wages and benefits, plus compensatory damages for emotional distress. The department is represented in court by its Regional Office of the Solicitor in Seattle.

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