US Department of Labor's OSHA settles whistleblower case
against Houston air-conditioning company
HOUSTON – The U.S. Department of Labor has entered into a settlement agreement with Houston-based Goodman Manufacturing Co. LP to resolve findings by the department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration that the company illegally terminated an employee for complaints about record-keeping practices, in violation of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.
"Employees must be free to exercise their rights under the law without fear of termination or retaliation by their employers," said John Hermanson, OSHA's regional administrator in Dallas. "This settlement underscores the Labor Department's commitment to vigorously protect those rights."
OSHA's Houston North Area Office conducted an investigation of Goodman Manufacturing upon receiving a whistleblower complaint that the company failed to properly record employee injuries and illnesses on its OSHA 300 logs. Instead of addressing the concerns, OSHA found that the company decided to transfer the complainant to a much less desirable job. The complainant was then terminated by Goodman for refusing to be transferred.
After filing a lawsuit in the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division, the Labor Department's regional solicitor's office in Dallas negotiated a settlement agreement with Goodman Manufacturing in which the company agreed to pay $150,000 to the whistleblower. Additionally, the agreement requires the company to purge all references to the complainant's termination in its personnel files, modify the files to reflect a voluntary resignation and provide a neutral job reference upon request.
Separate from the whistleblower settlement, Goodman has paid $550,000 in penalties for record-keeping violations found during an OSHA inspection conducted in March 2010. The company also agreed to conduct an audit of its facilities nationwide and provide a report to OSHA outlining the results. In addition, the company will provide OSHA with the inspected facility's 300 logs on a quarterly basis for one year, along with other information reflecting injury and illness rates. Finally, Goodman will train all of its employees nationwide who are involved in OSHA-required record keeping on the relevant standards.
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the OSH Act as well as 20 additional statutes protecting employees who report violations of various securities, trucking, airline, nuclear, pipeline, environmental, rail, consumer product and food safety regulations. Under the various whistleblower provisions enacted by Congress, 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 for an investigation by OSHA's Whistleblower Protection Program. For more information, visit 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 names of employees involved in whistleblower complaints.
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.