Region 10 News Release: 09-816-SEA (09-109)
July 13, 2009
Contact: Jeannine Lupton
U.S. Department of Labor files lawsuit against U.S. Postal Service to obtain reinstatement, back pay and damages for fired whistleblower
SEATTLE -- The U.S. Department of Labor has filed suit against the U.S. Postal Service, alleging that a former Seattle Processing and Distribution Center employee was discharged in violation of the whistleblower provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act of 1970.
The complaint alleges that the former employee was terminated for reporting a work-related illness to her employer and refusing to work with equipment that caused her illness. The former employee filed a complaint with the Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) alleging retaliation by the defendant in violation of Section 11(c) of the OSH Act. OSHA investigated the complaint and determined it had merit.
Section 11(c) of the OSH Act prohibits discharge or other discrimination against an employee for reporting a work-related fatality, injury or illness. It also prohibits retaliation against employees for filing a safety or health complaint, or for exercising a wide range of other rights afforded to them by the act.
Filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, the complaint seeks to reinstate the employee and to secure back pay, interest, punitive damages, other relief and an order permanently enjoining the U.S. Postal Service from violating the anti-discrimination provisions of the OSH Act.
"This case sends a clear message that OSHA will not tolerate retaliation against whistleblowers," said Richard S. Terrill, OSHA's regional administrator in Seattle. "Employees need to be able to report on-the-job injuries or illnesses without fear of reprisal."
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the OSH Act and 16 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of various securities laws; trucking, airline, nuclear power, pipeline, environmental, rail, workplace safety and health regulations; and consumer product safety laws. Detailed information on employee whistleblower rights, including fact sheets, is available online at: http://www.whistleblowers.gov/index.html.
Under the OSH Act, OSHA's role is to promote safe and healthful working conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and providing training, outreach and education. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.
Editor's Note: The Labor Department does not release names of employees involved in whistleblower complaints.
# # #
U.S. Department of Labor releases are accessible on the Internet at www.dol.gov. The information in this news release will be made available in alternate format (large print, Braille, audiotape or disc) from the COAST office upon request. Please specify which news release when placing your request at 202-693-7828 or TTY 202-693-7755. The Labor Department is committed to providing America's employers and employees with easy access to understandable information on how to comply with its laws and regulations. For more information, please visit www.dol.gov/compliance.