March 27, 2008
Contact: Leni Fortson
FREEHOLD, N.J. -- The U.S. Department of Labor has filed suit against Brocon Petroleum Inc. and its president, Richard Kohler, on behalf of an employee who was terminated in violation of the whistleblower provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act. The Freehold construction company specializes in municipal sanitation projects.
The complaint alleges that the defendants terminated the employee in retaliation for the employee engaging in a protected activity. The department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) conducted an inspection of the employer's worksite in response to an anonymous complaint about safety practices at the worksite. The defendants later that day fired the complainant because they believed the complainant had contacted OSHA.
The former employee filed a complaint with OSHA alleging retaliation by the defendants in violation of Section 11(c) of the OSH Act. OSHA investigated the complaint and determined it had merit. After being notified of OSHA's findings, the defendants refused to reinstate the employee to the same or a substantially equivalent position of employment, and to pay back wages or other employment benefits.
"Employees should be free to exercise their rights under the law without fear of termination or retaliation by their employers," said Louis Ricca Jr., OSHA's acting regional administrator in New York. "This lawsuit underscores the Labor Department's commitment to vigorously take action to protect those rights."
Filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, the complaint seeks to reinstate the employee; secure compensatory damages, lost back pay and punitive damages; and require the company to post a notice in a prominent place for 60 days that explains employee rights under Section 11(c) of the OSH Act.
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the OSH Act and 15 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of various trucking, airline, nuclear power, pipeline, environmental, rail and securities laws. Detailed information on employee whistleblower rights, including fact sheets, is available online at: http://www.osha.gov/dep/oia/whistleblower/index.html.
Under the OSH Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthy workplace for their employees. OSHA's role is to promote 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.
Note: The U.S. Department of Labor does not release names of employees involved in whistleblower complaints.
Chao v. Brocon Petroleum et. al.
Civil Action Number: 3:08-cv-876
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