Based on the most recent statistics published by OSHA, the number of whistleblower retaliation cases being filed by employees has continued to rise. In FY-2015, there were 3,288 cases filed, an increase of over 6% from the 3,098 cases filed in FY-2014. This continued a long upward trend. In fact, the number of whistleblower claims filed with OSHA has increased by over 70% since 2005, when only 1,934 cases were filed. Along the same lines, more and more cases are being resolved in a way that is favorable to the complaining employee, either through a settlement or a finding that the whistleblower claim had merit. In FY-2015, there were 835 cases that resulted in such a positive outcome for the complaining employee, which is more than double the 397 such cases in FY-2005.
Two recent OSHA Whistleblower cases underscore the need for Employers to be aware of these types of claims and to take precautionary measures.
- On November 15th, OSHA announced that it had found that a Denver company, TruBlue, LLC, had unlawfully terminated an employee after the employee suggested to the company’s CEO that more safety research needed to be conducted on zip-line equipment. TruBlue develops and manufactures products used for climbing, zip-line, free-fall and other recreational activities. OSHA has ordered TruBlue to pay the former employee $125,000 in back wages and to take other corrective actions.
- On October 11th, OSHA announced the settlement of its lawsuit against Lear Corp. (dba Renosol Seating LLC. Lear manufactures foam seating for the automotive industry. The lawsuit had been filed on March 4, 2016, following OSHA’s investigation had determined that employees who reported hazards from chemical exposure at the company’s Selma, AL plant suffered multiple forms of retaliation in violation of the OSH Act’s whistleblower provisions. The settlement requires Lear to dismiss its lawsuit filed against one of the employees and to reinstate that employee to her former position. In addition, the disciplinary records of the employees who had complained of the hazards will be purged from their personnel files, and those employees will be compensated for the work time lost due to the suspensions. Lear also agreed to permit OSHA to provide annual training regarding protected rights under the OSH Act to all workers for a period of 3 years.
For assistance dealing with OSHA’s Whistleblower provisions or other OSHA-related issues please contact Doug E. Solomon, Esq., Chair of the Firm’s OSHA Practice Group and Partner in the Labor Law Practice Group. Mr. Solomon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (973) 535-7128.