Region 4 News Release: 12-2033-ATL (350)
Oct. 10, 2012
Contact: Michael D'Aquino
US Department of Labor wins lawsuit against Aquatech Technologies owners for
firing whistleblower who complained about rodents at Stuart, Fla., plant
Judge finds canvas manufacturer violated OSH Act by retaliating against employee
STUART, Fla. – The U.S. Department of Labor has won a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida against LOTO Services LLC and owner Allan R. Lochhead. Based on an investigation by its Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the department sued the defendants, alleging that they unlawfully and intentionally terminated an employee of Aquatech Technologies Inc. for raising health concerns about rodent infestations at Aquatech's facility in Stuart. LOTO Services LLC owns Aquatech Technologies, which does business as Aquatech Canvas & Consignment.
Judge K. Michael Moore permanently enjoined the defendants from violating the provisions of Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, which prohibits retaliation against employees for raising workplace safety and health concerns. The judge further ordered that the former employee be paid a total of $34,186, comprising $27,072 in back wages, $6,700 in expenses and $414 in interest. The Labor Department was represented in court by its Regional Office of the Solicitor in Atlanta.
"OSHA will continue to ensure that every American worker has the right to report workplace hazards without fear of retaliation," said Cindy Coe, OSHA's regional administrator in Atlanta. "This judgment is proof that the Labor Department will prosecute, to the fullest extent of the law, employers found violating these basic worker rights."
The employee had reported 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 that there was no rodent problem, so the employee filed a health complaint with OSHA. One day after OSHA officials notified the company of the health complaint, the employee was terminated. The employee then submitted a whistleblower complaint, and OSHA's resulting investigation found merit to it.
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the OSH Act and 21 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, motor vehicle 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 Labor Department 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 or CD from the COAST office upon request by calling 202-693-7828 or TTY 202-693-7755.