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Region 2 News Release
09-1514-NEW (09-266)
Dec. 29, 2009
Contact: Leni Fortson
Phone: 215-861-5102

Freehold, NJ, company fails to comply with federal court order in US Labor Department's OSHA whistleblower case; US marshals seize vehicle

FREEHOLD, N.J. -- U.S. marshals accompanied by special agents from the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of the Inspector General today seized a vehicle at the residence of Richard Kohler, president of Brocon Petroleum Inc., after Brocon Petroleum and Kohler failed to pay $7,500 in back wages to a former employee. The back wages were the result of a consent judgment filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey to resolve a lawsuit filed by the Labor Department in March 2008.

The suit was filed after the department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) found the company had violated the whistleblower provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act. An investigation by OSHA's Whistleblower Protection Program found the defendants had terminated the employee in retaliation because they suspected he had called OSHA and caused an inspection. The defendants fired the complainant following the inspection of the employer's worksite conducted by OSHA in response to an anonymous complaint about safety practices at the worksite.

Under the consent judgment, Brocon Petroleum had agreed to pay the former employee's back wages in addition to removing all reference to suspension or discharge from the employee's personnel file and posting a notice notifying current employees of their whistleblower rights. However, the company failed to comply with the monetary terms of the consent judgment.

"This action should send a clear message that there will be consequences for retaliating against employees who engage in activities protected by law," says Robert Kulick, OSHA's regional administrator in New York. "While OSHA is best known for ensuring the safety and health of employees, it is also a whistleblower protection agency."

OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the OSH Act and 16 other statutes protecting workers who report violations of various trucking, airline, nuclear power, pipeline, environmental, rail and securities laws. Detailed information on employee whistleblower rights, including fact sheets, is available online at: http://www.whistleblowers.gov/index.html.

Under the OSH Act of 1970, OSHA's role is to promote safe and healthful working conditions for America's men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, outreach and education. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.

Solis v. Brocon Petroleum et. al.
Civil Action Number: 3:08-cv-876

Note: The U.S. Department of Labor does not release names of employees involved in whistleblower complaints.

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U.S. Department of Labor releases are accessible on the Internet at www.dol.gov. The information in this news release will be made available in alternate format (large print, Braille, audiotape or disc) from the COAST office upon request. Please specify which news release when placing your request at 202-693-7828 or TTY 202-693-7755. The Labor Department is committed to providing America's employers and employees with easy access to understandable information on how to comply with its laws and regulations. For more information, please visit www.dol.gov/compliance.


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