August 27, 2019
U.S. Department of Labor Orders Kinder Morgan to Pay Back Pay, Damages And Fees for Retaliation Against Whistleblower
DALLAS, TX – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has ordered Kinder Morgan Inc. – an energy infrastructure company based in Houston, Texas - to pay a former employee back wages, damages, and attorney’s fees after an investigation found that the company violated the whistleblower provisions of the Pipeline Safety Improvement Act (PSIA).
The employee informed a contractor of Kinder Morgan’s attempt to avoid complying with the PSIA’s spill reporting requirements. Kinder Morgan later insisted that the employee retract the statement. When the employee refused, the company terminated the employee on January 3, 2018.
OSHA determined that the employee’s actions were protected activity and the discharge violated the employee’s whistleblower protections. OSHA ordered Kinder Morgan to pay $113,040 in back pay, $30,000 in compensatory damages and $20,552 in attorney’s fees. OSHA also ordered the company to expunge the complainant’s employment record of any reference to exercising whistleblower rights under PSIA; not retaliate or discriminate against the complainant; pay interest on the back pay; and post a notice of OSHA’s finding in a conspicuous place in or about its facility. Kinder Morgan or the former employee may appeal the order to the Department’s Office of Administrative Law Judges.
“This order recognizes the vital importance of pipeline safety and that federal law protects whistleblowers who engage in protected activity,” said OSHA Dallas acting Regional Administrator Eric S. Harbin.
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the PSIA and more than 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. For more information on whistleblower protections, visit OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Programs webpage.
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 help 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.
The mission of the Department of Labor is to foster, promote, and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers, and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights.
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Editor’s note: The U.S. Department of Labor does not release names of employees involved in whistleblower complaints.
Release Number: 19-1365-DAL
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