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U.S. Department of Labor Sues MA Employer for Wrongful Termination Stemming from Whistleblower Complaint

The Department of Labor has is in the midst of a legal battle with Donald Pottern, of the company Crown Furniture of West Springfield, for firing a worker who filed a safety complaint with the department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

In a statement made by OSHA official Robert Hooper, Hooper said “Employees have a right to file a complaint with OSHA without fear of discharge or other forms of retaliation from their employer. Such retaliation can coerce workers into silence, preventing them from reporting or raising concerns about conditions that could injure, sicken or kill them.”

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, such employer retaliation warrants authority to the organization to file suit against employers that take action against employees.

According to OSHA documents and a complaint filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts in Springfield, the employee had contacted OSHA on May 9, 2011, alleging safety and health hazards in the basement of Crown Furniture, including the presence of asbestos, mold and rodents. On May 11, Pottern apparently fired the employee after he questioned him as to why he filed the complaint. The now former employee filed a whistleblower complaint with OSHA, which investigated and found legitimate merit to the complaint.

According to OSHA, the lawsuit seeks a judgment affirming that Pottern discharged the employee in retaliation for filing an OSHA complaint and permanently prohibits him from illegally retaliating against employees in the future. Additionally, the lawsuit seeks payment of more than $20,000 in lost wages (plus interest), as well as payment of compensatory and/or punitive damages and posting of a nondiscrimination notice at the workplace.

WHISTLEBLOWER LAWSUITS

It takes an incredible amount of courage to bring forth a whistleblower claim against an employer or entity; whether it is a breach of safety standards that put an employee at risk, a breach of ethics, or any other type of incident that would expose wrongdoing on behalf of an employer or company.

Under the OSH Act and 21 other statutes, OSHA protects employees who report violations of various airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, health care reform, nuclear, pipeline, worker safety, public transportation agency, maritime and securities laws. Employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who raise various protected concerns or provide protected information to the employer or to the government.

Employees who believe that they have been subjected to unsafe working conditions or who seek to expose an employer’s wrongdoing, should most definitely enlist the assistance of an experienced Whistleblower Attorney to discuss their legal rights and options for filing a claim. At the law offices of Altman & Altman, our team of seasoned attorneys has assisted clients in filing whistleblower complaints and has helped navigate them into obtaining compensation for their bravery and helping to expose willful wrongdoing of liable parties.

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