Tues., Feb. 19, 2008
Contact: Ted Fitzgerald
NEW YORK -- As the result of an investigation and legal action by the U.S. Department of Labor, a Flushing, N.Y., apartment complex will pay $66,000 in back wages to a former employee who was fired after objecting to unsafe working conditions.
An employee of Second Housing Co. Inc., 161-29 Harry Van Arsdale Ave., was ordered to clean up insecticide residue in the complex's basement despite his not having been trained in the handling of hazardous materials and the absence of personal protective equipment. Concerned for his health and safety, he repeatedly asked for protective equipment and was fired as a result.
A whistleblower investigation by the Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) found that Second Housing had discharged the employee in retaliation for his raising legitimate safety and health concerns.
Under a consent judgment signed Jan. 24 by U.S. District Judge Eric N. Vitaliano, Second Housing will pay the back wages, plus interest, and inform its employees of their whistleblower rights under the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act. If payment is not made, the court will appoint a receiver with the power to liquidate the company's assets to secure compliance with the monetary terms of the judgment.
"All employees have the right to safe and healthful working conditions without fear of retaliation or termination," said Louis Ricca Jr., OSHA's acting regional administrator in New York. "When that right is denied, the Labor Department will not hesitate to take appropriate and effective legal steps to ensure its restoration."
The judgment, which Second Housing agreed to without admitting or denying the charges, also prohibits the company from discharging or discriminating against any employee who files an OSHA complaint. The judgment was entered in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.
Section 11(c) of the OSH Act protects an employee's right to file a complaint with OSHA or bring safety and health issues to the attention of his or her employer. Information about the whistleblower provisions of this and other laws is available at www.osha.gov/dep/oia/whistleblower/index.html.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to assure the safety and health of America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards; providing training, outreach and education; establishing partnerships; and encouraging continual process improvement in workplace safety and health. For more information, visit www.osha.gov.
Chao v. Second Housing Co. Inc.
Civil Action Number: 1:07-cv-5327
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