A federal judge has awarded more than $1 million in lost wages and punitive damages to two former employees of a Pennsylvania construction company after a jury found the company and its owner fired them for participating in a safety investigation.
The jury in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania determined that Lloyd Industries of Montgomeryville and its owner, William Lloyd, illegally fired the employees because they participated in a 2014 Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigation.
The inspection took place after one of the employees' co-workers had three fingers amputated in a workplace injury, the U.S. Department of Labor said in a recent release.
The company fired one of the workers after OSHA began an on-site investigation, and fired the other shortly after OSHA issued citations and fined Lloyd Industries.
The acts of retaliation violated federal law, specifically Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.
The court awarded a total of $1,047,399 in April.
The court's award of $500,000 in punitive damages is the largest punitive award ever under Section 11(c) of the OSH Act.
The court cited the defendants' "deliberative flouting of the act."
In addition to the damages, the jury awarded the former employees $547,399 in front and back pay, prejudgment interest, plus additional funds to compensate for the adverse tax consequences of receiving a large, one-time payment.
The judge also ordered Lloyd Industries and William Lloyd to immediately post an anti-retaliation notice at its workplace and never again violate Section 11(c).
"The court recognized that all employees have a federally protected right to speak out against unsafe and unhealthy working conditions, to participate in U.S. Department of Labor investigations, and to be compensated if they are terminated in retaliation for exercising those rights" regional solicitor Oscar L. Hampton III said in Philadelphia.
"The significant punitive damages sends a strong message to this employer and others that deliberately violating these laws will not be tolerated."
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of more than 20 whistleblower statutes that protect employees who report violations in many industries.
Under the OSH Act, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees while OSHA's role is to enforce these standards and provide training, education, and assistance to employers.
For more information, contact CBIA's Phillip Montgomery (860.244.1982).