Feb. 22, 2016 BOS 2016-024
US Labor Department sues Niagara Falls employer for firing employee
who raised safety concerns at Buffalo demolition site
Regional Environmental Demolition Inc., officers, had 'no reason and no right' to retaliate
BUFFALO, N.Y. - He took the right step, and was fired for it.
He was a demolition and asbestos abatement laborer employed by Regional Environmental Demolition Inc. at an asbestos abatement project in Buffalo from April to June 2014. At the job site at 527 West Utica St., the man observed weakened or deteriorated sections of flooring called "soft spots." At one spot, his foot broke through the floor.
Concerned that he or others might fall through the floors, the laborer told his superiors who also worked for the Niagara Falls contractor of the hazard multiple times. In June 2014, the company discharged him after the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration contacted the employer in response to an anonymous complaint. The concerned worker then filed a whistleblower complaint with OSHA, which investigated and found it had merit.
Now, the Labor Department has filed suit in federal court against Regional Environmental Demolition and its officials Charles Van Epps and Enrico Liberale for retaliating against the former employee for raising these safety concerns. The suit seeks payment to the worker for lost wages and compensatory damages, interest, front pay, emotional and financial distress damages and punitive damages. The action also seeks to have all references to the matter expunged from his personnel records.
"Regional Environmental Demolition had no reason and no right to fire this worker for repeatedly reporting a safety hazard that could have seriously harmed him and his fellow workers. Firing or retaliating against workers who raise safety concerns is intimidation, plain and simple. If employees fear losing their jobs, hazards can go unreported and injuries can result," said Robert Kulick, OSHA's regional administrator in New York.
"The Occupational Safety and Health Act gives us the authority to sue employers who retaliate against employees in safety and health matters. We will do so when the case warrants, as it does here," said Jeffrey Rogoff, the regional solicitor of labor in New York.
Filed with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York, on Feb. 19, the suit also asks the court to permanently enjoin the defendants from future violations, and require them to post a notice to their employees that they will not discriminate against employees who exercise their workplace safety and health rights.
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 retaliated against for engaging in protected conduct may file a complaint with the secretary of labor to request an investigation by OSHA's Whistleblower Protection Program. Detailed information on employee whistleblower rights, including fact sheets, is available at http://whisleblowers.gov.
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 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.
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Perez v. Regional Environmental Demolition Inc., Charles Van Epps and Enrico Liberale Civil Action Number: 16-CV-149V
Editor's note: The U.S. Department of Labor does not release the names of employees involved in whistleblower complaints.
Ted Fitzgerald, 617-565-2075 firstname.lastname@example.org
Release Number: 16-358-NEW
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