OSHA Cites Vermont Company in Whistleblower Case
A Vermont agricultural equipment company is facing $145,000 in damages after OSHA determined it fired an employee as a means of retaliation.
Officials with the Department of Labor said an employee reported the company to Vermont’s Department of Environmental Conservation after the employee observed the employer pumping wastewater from the facility’s service bays onto the ground bordering the Winooski River, a tributary of Lake Champlain.
DOL officials said the employee reported concerns about potential harms to supervisors before going to DEC.
After the company fired the employee, the employee filed a whistleblower complaint with OSHA.
OSHA determined the company’s actions violated the whistleblower provisions of the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Federal Water Pollution Control Act and ordered the company to reinstate the employee to their former position.
“The employee had a right to raise valid concerns about potential environmental harm to the Winooski River, an important water source,” OSHA regional administrator Galen Blanton said.
“Employers who retaliate illegally against employees who engage in federally protected activities will be held accountable.”
The agency also ordered the company to pay the employee $45,000 in back wages, interest on the back wages, $50,000 in compensatory damages, $50,000 in punitive damages, and the worker’s reasonable attorneys’ fees.
“As this case shows, all employers need to be especially careful when reacting to employees’ concerns or official complaints to regulatory agencies,” CBIA director of compensation and safety Phillip Montgomery said.
Employers should note the protection against retaliation not only includes overt actions such as termination, demotion or denial of benefits, but also covers such adverse actions as curtailing overtime, reassigning to less desirable positions, or even subtle actions such as isolating or inaccurate performance reports.
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