Sept. 24, 2014
US Labor Department files complaint against North Jackson Specialty Steel
for dismissing employee who reported safety concerns
NORTH JACKSON, Ohio – A lawsuit alleging that North Jackson Specialty Steel terminated a furnace operator for reporting unsafe working conditions at its North Jackson steel mill has been filed by the U.S. Department of Labor. The suit alleges the company violated the whistleblower protection provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 and seeks restoration of lost pay and benefits, compensatory and punitive damages, and compensation for attorney and other fees.
"North Jackson Specialty Steel fired this employee for reporting unsafe conditions that jeopardized the safety of all workers at the mill," said Nick Walters, regional administrator for OSHA in Chicago. "No American worker should be subjected to dismissal for requesting safe working conditions. The department will do everything in its power to prevent this type of unlawful retaliation."
The department's lawsuit alleges that North Jackson Specialty Steel terminated the furnace operator's employment on June 19, 2012, four days after the employee voiced concerns to management that the company had jeopardized worker safety by intentionally disabling a safety feature that controlled the operating temperature of a furnace.
The employee learned that the safety feature had been disabled after the furnace overheated during production of a metal alloy on June 15. When the incident occurred, the operator instituted emergency shut-down procedures and evacuated employees in the vicinity. The operator reported the situation to a supervisor, who ordered the furnace restarted to save the alloy being produced. Upon restart, the furnace overheated again and broke down. It was only then that the supervisor informed the operator that the safety device controlling operating temperature had been disabled.
During employment with North Jackson Specialty Steel, the employee frequently raised safety concerns to management about the provision and maintenance of personal protective equipment, production of metal alloys and other processes.
The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, and the department's Regional Office of the Solicitor in Chicago is litigating the case.
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 workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742).
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.
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Editor's note: The U.S. Department of Labor does not release the names of employees involved in whistleblower complaints
Perez v. North Jackson Specialty Steel LLC
Civil Action Number: 4-14-cv-02115
Release Number: 14-1703-CHI
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