US Department of Labor sues Aquatech Technologies to reinstate
whistleblower fired for complaining about rodents at Stuart, Fla., plant
OSHA finds canvas manufacturer violated OSH Act by retaliating against employee
STUART, Fla. – The U.S. Department of Labor is suing LOTO Services LLC and its owner, Allan R. Lochhead, for allegedly terminating an employee of Aquatech Technologies, which does business as Aquatech Canvas & Consignment, because that employee raised health concerns about rodent infestations at Aquatech's facility in Stuart. The lawsuit is based on an investigation by the department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration that found the firing violated the whistleblower provisions of Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. LOTO Services LLC owns Aquatech Technologies, which does business as Aquatech Canvas and Consignment.
The suit seeks to have the employee reinstated and paid back wages, interest, and compensatory and punitive damages. Additionally, the suit requests that the employee's personnel records be expunged with respect to the matters at issue in this case, the employer be barred against future violations of the law by a permanent injunction and the court grant any other appropriate relief.
"Retaliating against workers for raising health and safety concerns is a violation of federal law," said Cindy Coe, OSHA's regional administrator in Atlanta. "Employers found violating these basic worker rights will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."
The employee had reported serious concerns to management regarding rodents and rodent droppings in the office, and requested to have these problems corrected. Lochhead placed rodent traps in the office, but the problem continued. The employee complained again, but Lochhead indicated there was no rodent problem, so the employee filed a health complaint with OSHA. One day after the company was notified of the health complaint by OSHA officials; the employee was terminated. The employee filed a timely whistleblower complaint with OSHA, which concluded that the company and Lochhead had unlawfully and intentionally terminated the worker for engaging in activity protected by the OSH Act.
The Labor Department is represented in court by its Regional Office of the Solicitor in Atlanta. The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, Fort Pierce Division.
Aquatech Canvas & Consignment specializes in the preparation, sale and installation of canvas, including covers for boats and upholstery.
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the OSH Act and 20 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of various commercial motor vehicle, airline, nuclear, pipeline, environmental, railroad, public transportation, maritime, consumer product, health care reform, securities, food safety and consumer financial reform regulations.
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 information on employee whistleblower rights is available online at http://www.whistleblowers.gov.
To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency's Fort Lauderdale Area Office at 954-424-0242.
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. LOTO Services LLC
Civil Action File Number 2:12-cv-14119-KMM
U.S. Department of Labor news materials are accessible at http://www.dol.gov. The information above is available in large print, Braille, audio tape or disc from the COAST office upon request by calling 202-693-7828 or TTY 202-693-7755.