Federal law protects workers against retaliation in the event that they report misconduct, dangerous working conditions, or safety violations that can cause serious or fatal injuries. The U.S. Department of Labor has filed a lawsuit against a Massachusetts company that allegedly fired an employee for filing a safety complaint with OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration). The Department of Labor investigated the allegations after the firing and had enough evidence to pursue a case against the defendant company for retaliation.
Employers are responsible for ensuring the safety and well-being of employees. In addition to following OSHA policies and federal laws, employers cannot take retaliatory action against employees who wage complaints for safety violations. Our Boston workplace injury lawyers are dedicated to protecting the rights and security of workers throughout Massachusetts. We remain abreast of legal issues and developments that may impact workers’ rights.
The owner of the company denies allegations that he was retaliating against the employee and claims that the employee was fired because of poor performance. Complaints against the employee contend he was driving the truck and that he negatively represented the company and badmouthed the owners when he delivered their orders. The owner also alleges that the he had every reason to fire the employee and that the case is a waste of time.
According to the Boston Business Journal, the government has filed a lawsuit seeking over $20,000 of lost wages on behalf of the employee as well as interest. The government is also pursuing additional award as payment for compensatory and punitive damages. In addition to monetary payment, the government is requiring that the owner post a nondiscrimination notice at the workplace. According to government representatives, workers have the right to file a complaint with OSHA without fear of discharge or retaliation.
Retaliation is a significant threat to worker safety as it can force workers into silence. Workers who fear that they will lose their jobs or face other penalties are less likely to report violations or raise safety concerns that could cause serious injury, fatality, or illness. To prove a retaliation case, evidence must show that the employee lost his job because he reported the wrongdoing. Even if his performance was under review, the firing is not justified if it was tied to the OSHA complaint.
The owner of the business still asserts that he did no wrong in this case and that he tried to help the employee improve his performance. He also alleges that he was receiving calls and complaints from clients. The Department of Labor reports that that the employee waged complaints in 2011 about hazards including asbestos, mold and rodents. The owner dismissed the employee shortly after the complaint was filed. After losing his job, the employee filed a whistle-blower complaint which was determined to have merit after an investigation. The Department of Labor has offered to negotiate a settlement with the owner of the company, but the owner will not admit that he did anything wrong for firing the whistle-blowing employee.
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