US Labor Department sues Albany, NY, contractor for allegedly firing and
harassing employee who reported asbestos hazards at Gloversville school
ALBANY, N.Y. – The U.S. Department of Labor has filed a lawsuit against Albany-based demolition and construction disposal contractor Champagne Demolition LLC and manager Joseph Champagne for allegedly firing an employee who reported improper asbestos removal practices while working at Gloversville High School.
On June 10, 2010, the employee informed company management of the improper practices. The worker was fired the next day and subjected to verbal threats and legal action. The worker then filed a complaint with the department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which opened a whistleblower investigation and found merit to the worker's allegations.
The department's complaint, filed by its Regional Office of the Solicitor in New York in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York, charges that the defendants discriminated against the employee by conducting retaliatory acts in violation of Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.
"All employees have the right to report potential safety and health hazards to their employers and to proper authorities without fear of harassment, termination or other retaliation," said Robert Kulick, OSHA's regional administrator in New York. "Such behavior can intimidate workers into silence, putting them at risk if they are afraid to report conditions that can injure or sicken them. That is unacceptable, and the Labor Department will take all necessary legal steps on behalf of whistleblowing workers."
The department's suit asks the court to order the defendants to offer the employee reinstatement with full benefits and no break in seniority, expunge the employee's personnel record of any reference to the circumstances in this matter and post a notice of employees' right to report hazards without retaliation. In addition, the department is seeking lost wages as well as compensatory, punitive, emotional and financial distress damages for the worker.
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and 21 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of various airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, health care reform, nuclear, pipeline, public transportation agency, maritime and securities laws.
Under these laws enacted by Congress, 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 for an investigation by OSHA's Whistleblower Protection Program. Detailed employee rights information is available online at http://www.whistleblowers.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.
Editor's note: The U.S. Department of Labor does not release the names of employees involved in whistleblower complaints.
Solis v. Champagne Demolition LLC and Joseph Champagne.
Civil Action Number: 12-CV-01278.
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 202-693-7828 or TTY 202-693-7755.