According to federal safety officials, a company in Illinois must pay $190,547 in damages and back wages to a safety manager as the result of a whistleblower case that stemmed from its facility in Lansing, Illinois.
The order came from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). After an investigation, commercial tank-trailer company Polar Service Centers was found to have violated regulations pertaining to whistleblowers found in the Surface Transportation Assistance Act.
The incident in question
OSHA officials said the company demoted, censured and finally forced the safety manager into an unwanted resignation after he reported wrongdoing to the U.S. Department of Transportation. The employee had said he suspected a customer at Polar was hauling hazardous waste with improperly certified trailers, which is a potentially dangerous safety violation.
The result of this report was swift retaliation against the employee. In September 2013, the man was indefinitely suspended from his position. He was later demoted and prevented from talking to any customers or the Department of Transportation. Eventually, he was forced to resign from his position completely.
OSHA now has ordered the company to reinstate the man to his former position, pay him back the wages he should have earned in the time he was gone ($88,847), provide another $100,000 in punitive damages and offer $1,700 in compensatory damages. The company will also be responsible for paying attorney’s fees incurred as a result of the legal action taken against it. There is a 30-day grace period for either party to file an objection.
Employers are strictly forbidden from retaliating against whistleblowers in any way when they report wrongdoing either internally or externally. For further legal guidance on these important issues, consult a knowledgeable Dallas attorney at Whistleblower Law for Managers.