Three Whistleblower Retaliation Cases Result in Violations and Citations
The U.S. Department of Labor announces its decisions in cases related to whistleblower retaliation.
- By Shereen Hashem
- Jul 08, 2021
OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program enforces the whistleblower provisions of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and 25 whistleblower statutes. The Department of Labor shares its three whistleblower incidents.
Midvale Paper Box Co. Inc.
DOL filed a lawsuit against the paper manufacturing company and its owner on June 28. According to the press release, an employee was fired for “raising safety concerns and asking several times for safety gloves to operate a shredder and baler.” The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania in Scranton. On October 5, 2017, an OSHA compliance officer visited Midvale to conduct a safety inspection. This was conducted because the company failed to provide PPE and did not implement lockout/tagout procedures. A worker suffered from a hand injury.
After getting fired, the employee filed a complaint to OSHA leading to the assessment that Midvale and Frank, the company’s owner “violated Section 11(c)(1) of OSH Act when they terminated the employee for engaging in protected activities.” The owner must reinstate and pay the compliant for past and future lost wages as well as other requests.
“Employers who retaliate against workers for raising valid safety concerns are breaking the law and creating an unsafe work environment for all of their workers,” said OSHA Regional Administrator Michael Rivera in Philadelphia. “Employees have a right to a safe and healthful workplace, and must never fear that reporting their concerns will cost them their jobs.”
Equistar Chemicals E.P.
On June 29, DOL announced that OSHA conducted a whistleblower investigation towards Equistar Chemicals L.P., which is a subsidiary of LyondellBasell, one of the world’s largest plastics, chemicals and refining companies. According to a press release, the account manager for the company was placed on a “performance improvement program” where he was later fired for continuing to practice illegal acts. OSHA also found the account manager was also retaliated against under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.
According to an article, OSHA ordered LyonBasell to reinstate the account manager and pay $518,189 in lost wages as well as $145,293 in lost benefits. The employee must also “pay an estimated $50,962 in interest on the back wages, $50,000 in compensatory damages and applicable attorney’s fees.” Additionally, OSHA ordered LyondellBasell to “expunge the account manager’s personnel record of any adverse information related to the whistleblower complaint,” according to a press release. “We commend this worker for bravely exercising their rights and reporting workplace misconduct,” said OSHA Acting Regional Administrator William Donovan in Chicago. “This employee’s concerns were protected by federal laws and well-known by management who took illegal actions by retaliating against them.” DOL adds a reminder that the department “does not release the names of employees involved in whistleblower complaints.”
CSX Transportation Inc.8
On July 1, DOL published a press release announcing that OSHA is conducting an investigation on Florida-based transportation supplier: CSX Transportation. OSHA found that the company “violated the Federal Railroad Safety Act and demonstrated a pattern of retaliation after firing a worker in December 2019 for reporting safety concerns.” OSHA ordered the company to pay “$71,976 in back wages, interest, and damages, and $150,000 in punitive damages.” Additionally, notes in October 2020 show that OSHA ordered CSX to reinstate a different employee who was fired after reporting a safety concern and an on-the-job injury.
OSHA documented receiving 3448 whistleblower cases, increasing from the previous fiscal year.