Worker Fired for 'Ratting' about Rodent Infestation

The employee had reported serious concerns to management regarding rodents and rodent droppings in the office and requested to have these problems corrected.

The U.S. Department of Labor is suing LOTO Services LLC and its owner, Allan R. Lochhead, for allegedly terminating an employee of Aquatech Technologies, which does business as Aquatech Canvas & Consignment, because that employee raised health concerns about rodent infestations at Aquatech's facility in Stuart, Fla. The lawsuit is based on an investigation by OSHA that found the firing violated the whistleblower provisions of Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. LOTO Services LLC owns Aquatech Technologies, which does business as Aquatech Canvas and Consignment.

The suit seeks to have the employee reinstated and paid back wages, interest, and compensatory and punitive damages. Additionally, the suit requests that the employee's personnel records be expunged with respect to the matters at issue in this case, the employer be barred against future violations of the law by a permanent injunction, and the court grant any other appropriate relief.

"Retaliating against workers for raising health and safety concerns is a violation of federal law," said Cindy Coe, OSHA's regional administrator in Atlanta. "Employers found violating these basic worker rights will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."

The employee had reported serious concerns to management regarding rodents and rodent droppings in the office and requested to have these problems corrected. Lochhead placed rodent traps in the office, but the problem continued. The employee complained again, but Lochhead indicated there was no rodent problem, so the employee filed a health complaint with OSHA. One day after the company was notified of the health complaint by OSHA officials, the employee was terminated. The employee filed a timely whistleblower complaint with OSHA, which concluded that the company and Lochhead had unlawfully and intentionally terminated the worker for engaging in activity protected by the OSH Act.

The Labor Department is represented in court by its Regional Office of the Solicitor in Atlanta. The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, Fort Pierce Division.

Aquatech Canvas & Consignment specializes in the preparation, sale and installation of canvas, including covers for boats and upholstery.

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