US Labor Department's OSHA orders Coit Services of Ohio to pay $161,228 to
technician fired after reporting unsafe lead abatement practices
Clean Air Act and Toxic Substance Control Act violations during construction project in Shaker Heights
BEDFORD HEIGHTS, Ohio – Coit Services of Ohio has been ordered to pay $161,228 in back wages, compensatory damages and interest, plus attorney's fees, to a technician following an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The investigation found that the Bedford Heights company violated the whistle-blower provisions of the Clean Air Act and the Toxic Substances Control Act.
An investigation conducted by OSHA found that Coit Services wrongfully terminated an on-location technician for raising safety concerns about lead abatement during a residential water mitigation project in Shaker Heights.
"Professionals, who work in the restoration and cleaning industry, have a right and a responsibility to express their professional opinion and report safety-related concerns," said Nick Walters, regional administrator for OSHA in Chicago. "The department's responsibility is to protect all employees from retaliation for exercising basic worker rights. The CAA and TSCA protect workers who, in turn, protect the public."
OSHA's investigation concluded that the on-location technician, who has a license from the Environmental Protection Agency to perform renovation work on homes potentially with lead paint, was terminated in January 2012 for reporting breaches of lead abatement protocol. The breaches occurred when another employee deviated from lead safety practices by using a circular saw improperly to remove a ceiling. Possibly, this spread lead-based paint dust throughout the home.
The agency has ordered Coit Services of Ohio to reinstate the technician to his former position with all pay, benefits and rights, and pay back wages of $82,000, plus interest, compensatory damages of $60,000 and reasonable attorney's fees of $19,228. The CAA and TSCA do not provide for an award of punitive damages.
The company must also remove disciplinary information from the employee's personnel record and provide whistle-blower rights information to its employees.
Any party to these cases can file an appeal with the department's Office of Administrative Law Judges within 30 days of receipt of the findings.
Coit Services of Ohio provides water damage restoration, carpet, tile and air duct cleaning services to residential and commercial customers.
OSHA enforces the whistle-blower provisions of the CAA and TSCA and 20 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; worker safety; public transportation agency; maritime; and securities laws. 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 to request an investigation by OSHA's Whistle-blower Protection Programs. Detailed information on employee whistle-blower rights, including fact sheets, is available 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 whistle-blower complaints.
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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.