Region 2 News Release: 10-1429-NEW
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Contact: John Chavez
US Labor Department files suit against New York City social service agency on
behalf of employee terminated for exercising workplace safety rights
NEW YORK - The U.S. Department of Labor has filed suit against Promesa Systems Inc., a New York City nonprofit organization providing care to individuals with developmental disabilities, for allegedly firing an employee who voiced workplace safety and health concerns and filed a complaint with the department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Also named in the suit is Promesa Systems' wholly owned subsidiary, East Harlem Council for Community Improvement Inc., and three managers.
"Firing or retaliating against workers who voice safety and health issues or contact OSHA can dissuade workers from reporting safety and health concerns, and thereby mask unsafe or unhealthful conditions," said Robert Kulick, OSHA's regional administrator in New York. "Employers need to understand that this type of behavior is illegal and will not be tolerated. We will actively pursue appropriate legal remedies in such cases."
OSHA found that, a few days after the employee advised the defendants that she would consult OSHA regarding an assignment that they had given her, the defendants suspended her during an internal investigation which included a review of her on-the-job performance. At the end of the company's investigation, the employee was fired. OSHA found evidence that the internal probe was used as a pretext to fire the employee for her whistleblower actions. The Labor Department's Office of the Solicitor filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York after the defendants failed to take corrective action.
The complaint seeks a judgment ordering all appropriate relief for the worker, including reinstatement, back pay with interest and compensatory damages, as well as prohibiting the defendants from future violations and having them post and comply with a workplace notice that they will not discriminate against employees who engage in protected safety and health activities.
OSHA enforces Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, which prohibits discharge or other retaliation against employees for filing a safety or health complaint or for exercising a wide range of other rights afforded to them by the act, as well as the whistleblower provisions of 18 other statutes protecting workers who report violations of various trucking, railway, airline, nuclear power, pipeline, environmental, securities, public transportation and consumer product safety laws. Detailed 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 assure 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 Labor Department does not release names of employees involved in whistleblower complaints.
Solis v. Promesa Systems Inc., East Harlem Council for Community Improvement Inc., Vivian Lewis, Nina-Louis-Charles and Christopher Jones.
Civil Action File Number: 10-CV-6526
U.S. Department of Labor releases are accessible on the Internet at http://www.dol.gov. The information in this news release will be made available in alternate format (large print, Braille, audiotape or disc) from the COAST office upon request. Please specify which news release when placing your request at 202-693-7828 or TTY 202-693-7755. The Labor Department is committed to providing America's employers and employees with easy access to understandable information on how to comply with its laws and regulations. For more information, please visit http://www.dol.gov/compliance.