July 9, 2015
US Labor Department files suit to reinstate John Deere employee
dismissed for reporting unsafe working conditions
MOLINE, Ill. - Job reinstatement, back wages and damages are sought for a pipefitter previously employed by John Deere, who was terminated from the Moline facility after reporting unsafe working conditions to the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
The department filed the lawsuit in federal court against Deere & Co., which operates as John Deere, on behalf of a pipefitter. The suit alleges John Deere violated the whistleblower provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.
"It is clear from OSHA's investigation that John Deere dismissed this employee for reporting conditions that exposed everyone at the facility to serious injuries," said William Donovan, acting regional administrator for OSHA in Chicago. "Commitment to workplace safety should be commended - not disciplined. The department will do everything in its power to prevent this type of unlawful retaliation against workers who report unsafe working conditions."
The department's lawsuit alleges that the pipefitter was dismissed on June 4, 2012, in retaliation for reporting to OSHA on three separate occasions.
The pipefitter filed a complaint about the Moline facility with OSHA in April 2010, and the company received a serious safety violation for exposing workers to fall hazards. In January 2012, the worker filed a complaint with OSHA for lockout/tagout violations, which exposed workers to amputation and crushing injuries when operating dangerous machinery. These hazards had been reported to the company's safety and maintenance department, but they were not resolved. Because of the complaint inspection, OSHA cited the company for five serious safety violations. On May 20, 2012, the pipefitter filed a complaint alleging that the facility lacked necessary first aid facilities. OSHA conducted an inspection on May 25, 2012, which resulted in one serious citation for the violation.
The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois, asks that the pipefitter be reinstated to his former position and to determine back wages and damages owed, and orders the company to remove any disciplinary information from his personnel records and pay reasonable attorney's fees.
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of 22 statutes protecting employees who report violations of various airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, motor vehicle safety, health care reform, nuclear, pipeline, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime and securities laws.
Employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who raise concerns or provide information to their employer or the government under any of these laws. Employees who believe they are a victim of retaliation for engaging in protected conduct may file a complaint with OSHA's Directorate of Whistleblower Protection Programs.
To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint or report amputations, eye loss, 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 whistleblower's office in Chicago at 312-353-2220.
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.
Perez v. Deere & Co., doing business as John Deere
Civil Action Number: 4:15-cv-04079-SLD-JEH
Release Number: 15-1340-CHI
U.S. Department of Labor news materials are accessible at http://www.dol.gov. The department's Reasonable Accommodation Resource Center converts departmental information and documents into alternative formats, which include Braille and large print. For alternative format requests, please contact the department at (202) 693-7828 (voice) or (800) 877-8339 (federal relay).