BOSTON -- Donald Pottern, doing business as Crown Furniture, will pay a former employee $12,500 and take other corrective action to resolve an anti-discrimination lawsuit filed in May by the U.S. Department of Labor. The department sued the West Springfield furniture retailer after an investigation by its Occupational Safety and Health Administration found merit to the worker's complaint that he had been fired by his employer on May 11, 2011, two days after he filed a complaint with OSHA alleging safety and health hazards at the store.
'This settlement puts on notice those employers who would penalize employees for contacting OSHA or raising safety and health concerns. We will not tolerate such behavior; employees should not have to endure it,' said Patrick Kapust, OSHA's acting deputy regional administrator for New England. 'Workers are entitled to have a voice in the workplace concerning their safety and health.'
Under the terms of a consent judgment entered in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts in Springfield, Pottern will pay the settlement in weekly installments. Failure to do so could result in the full amount coming due at once. To ensure payment, Pottern has provided the department with a security interest in a car that he owns, so that the department may lawfully secure possession and sell it to satisfy unpaid portions of the judgment, if necessary.
'Employees are entitled to many workplace protections under federal law, including the right to file complaints with the department when they believe those rights have been compromised,' said Michael Felsen, regional solicitor of labor for New England. 'When employers try to silence their workers through unlawful retaliation, the department will work vigorously to secure the appropriate legal redress for workers.'
The judgment also permanently enjoins and restrains Pottern from future violations of the anti-discrimination provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. He must expunge the former employee's personnel record and provide a written, neutral job reference for him, if requested. Finally, he must inform employees of their rights by posting English and Spanish versions of the OSHA poster at the workplace and a fact sheet outlining employees' anti-discrimination rights.
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the OSH Act and 21 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.
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 to request an investigation by OSHA's Whistleblower Protection Program. Detailed information on employee whistleblower rights, including fact sheets, is available at 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/.