30.01.2011

OSHA settles over Whistle-blower

The U.S. Department of Labor has agreed a settlement with Baton Rouge, Louisiana based MMR Contractors and global construction engineer Fluor, regarding the illegal termination of an employee who raised crane safety concerns.

An OSHA whistle blower investigator found the crane operator/ fitter complained numerous times to his employer, MMR Contractors and also to Fluor Corporation the general contractor for the construction site, about an unsafe crane lift that put workers lives at risk.

Shortly after making the complaints, Fluor insisted that MMR remove the man
from the Oak Grove power plant site in Franklin, Texas. MMR promptly terminated the employee. Both companies claimed the employee was terminated for disruptive behaviour.

OSHA maintained that the employee's behaviour was excused under the "leeway doctrine" of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

William A. Burke, OSHA's acting regional administrator in Dallas, Texas said: "Employees must be free to exercise their rights under the law without fear of termination or retaliation by their employers. This settlement underscores the Labor Department's commitment to vigorously protect those rights."

In lieu of litigation, the parties resolved their differences through a settlement agreement in which MMR and Fluor will pay the employee $17,500 in back pay, purge any reference to his termination from his personnel file, provide neutral employment references and agree not to unlawfully retaliate against the crane operator, or any employee, for engaging in activities protected by the whistle-blower provisions of the OSH Act and 20 additional statutes.

Under the whistle blower provisions 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
Whistle-blower Protection Program.

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