True North Hotel Group Inc. to provide whistle-blower training nationally
following US Labor Department investigation
Company will also pay back wages and damages, take corrective action on behalf of
discharged employee who raised safety concerns at Massachusetts location
BOSTON – As part of an enterprisewide settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor, True North Hotel Group Inc., a hotel management company based in Overland Park, Kan., 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.
Regional Solicitor's Office trial attorney Suzanne Reilly negotiated the settlement. True North Hotel Group Inc. is a company that develops and manages hotels in Arizona, Florida, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont and Virginia.
OSHA enforces the whistle-blower provisions of 22 statutes protecting employees who report violations of various airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, motor vehicle safety, health care reform, nuclear, pipeline, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime and securities laws. Employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who raise various protected concerns or who provide protected information to the employer or the government. Employees who believe that they have been retaliated against for engaging in protected conduct may file a complaint with the secretary of labor for an investigation by OSHA's Whistle-blower Protection Program. More information is available online at http://www.whistleblowers.gov.
Under the OSH Act, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.
Editor's note: The U.S. Department of Labor does not release names of employees involved in whistle-blower complaints.
U.S. Department of Labor news materials are accessible at http://www.dol.gov. The information above is available in large print, Braille or CD from the COAST office upon request by calling 292-693-7828 or TTY 292-693-7755.