DuraLabel's Weekly Safety News

Blog Author Angelique Sanders

Weekly safety news. Stay in touch with regulations from OSHA, NFPA, and other safety codes. Find out about other companies' best and worst practices. We scour the internet to provide you with helpful training resources and the latest safety information.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Former OSHA Empoyee Wins $820,000 Whistleblower Settlement Against OSHA

The Charlotte Observer reports that: "The U.S. Department of Labor will pay former OSHA official Bob Whitmore $820,000 – one of the largest federal whistle-blower settlements ever approved – under a deal that will end his four-year fight against the government. The settlement is a major victory for Whitmore, who says he was fired because he publicly criticized his agency for allowing companies to underreport workplace injuries."

Whitmore, who was fired in 2009, was OSHA's chief for record keeping.

Mr. Whitmore alleges that OSHA improved the reporting of OSHA's effectiveness by allowing  employers to underreport workplace injuries. This was done by not citing companies that underreported injuries.

Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2013/06/05/4087567/feds-to-pay-osha-whistleblower.html#storylink=cpy

 Read this week's Charlotte Observer story here.

Read two of our past posts about Mr. Whitmore:

Do Employers Underreport Worker's Injuries? (Feb 2008)
OSHA Plans Firing of Professed Whistleblower (July 2009)

This award, the largest whistleblower award against a federal agency, is being touted as a penalty that will get the attention of Federal officials everywhere. It sends the message to federal agencies that should they retaliate against whistle-blowers, they do it at their peril.  But, do you think this is true?  A fine against a private company comes out of the owner's pockets. That delivers a message.  A fine against a federal agency comes out of taxpayer's pockets. Does that fine have any effect or change behavior?  Should someone at OSHA been fired instead of fining OSHA?  What do you think?  Use the link below to add your comments.

Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2013/06/05/4087567/feds-to-pay-osha-whistleblower.html#storylink=cpy

The following is from an OSHA press release:

Following Settlement With OSHA, True North Hotel Group Inc. To Provide Employees With Whistle-blower Training

As part of an enterprisewide settlement agreement with the the Department of Labor, True North Hotel Group Inc., a hotel management company based in Overland Park, Kansas, will pay $22,225 in back wages and compensatory damages to a former employee who was terminated from a Massachusetts location after raising workplace safety concerns. The company will also educate all its managers and notify its employees nationwide about workers' whistle-blower rights under the Occupational Safety and Health Act as administered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

An employee at True North's Devens Conference Center in Massachusetts was subjected to disciplinary action and then terminated in October 2011 after notifying superiors about safety concerns. The worker then filed a whistle-blower complaint with OSHA, which investigated and found merit to the complaint. True North has elected to settle the matter by taking corrective action.

"Employers must understand that every employee has the right to raise workplace safety and health concerns without fear of retaliation or termination," said Marthe Kent, OSHA's New England regional administrator. "When employees are fearful or reluctant to raise these issues with their employers, hazardous conditions could go undetected until employees are injured or sickened." 

"In agreeing to a companywide settlement, True North is pledging to address this issue across the board, ensuring that all its employees are aware they have a voice regarding safety and health at each workplace. They are entitled to protection against discrimination when they exercise that voice," said Michael Felsen, the department's regional Solicitor of Labor in Boston, whose office negotiated the settlement with True North.

Specifically, True North will immediately post the whistle-blower fact sheet and OSHA poster, in English and Spanish, in conspicuous locations at all of its work premises nationwide, where they can be seen and read by all employees. It will also provide annual training on whistle-blower rights and employer responsibilities to all managers and supervisors and provide training materials to all newly hired or promoted managers.

In addition to paying the back wages and compensatory damages to the former employee, True North will expunge all references to disciplinary action and termination from his personnel file and provide a written, neutral job reference, should any prospective employer seek a reference for the worker.

Related Past Posts
OSHA Orders Union Pacific To Pay Whistleblower
OSHA Whistleblower Actions and Settlements
OSHA Orders Trucking Company To Reinstate Employee

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