The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) filed a lawsuit after finding that Texas-based newspaper the Killeen Daily Herald retaliated against a whistleblower.
An Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) investigation found that in May and June of 2021, a reporter for the Killeen Daily Herald, which is owned by Frank Mayborn Enterprises Inc., “sent messages to company management complaining about” an infestation of what they believed to be fleas, according to the news release. The reporter also complained to management about the bug bites from the infestation.
The reporter “had the bugs examined and learned they identified as ‘no-see-ums’ or ‘biting midges,” the news release states. After the reporter shared the information about the type of bugs with Killeen Daily Herald management, “the company responded by terminating the employer.”
The DOL alleged in its August 29, 2022, “filing in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas” that the newspaper “fired the employee for engaging in protected activity.” The lawsuit “asks the court to order the newspaper to comply with the federal anti-retaliation provisions; reinstate and pay the employee back wages, interest, compensatory and punitive damages; expunge the employee’s personnel record; and other remedies.”
OSHA Regional Administrator Eric Harbin in Dallas said in the press release, “Rather than addressing an employee’s concerns about the safety and health of their workplace, the Killeen Daily Herald terminated their reporter who sought to prevent workplace exposure to unknown diseases carried by the insects…”The U.S. Department of Labor investigates violations of federal whistleblower statutes and protects workers who exercise their right to raise safety concerns without the fear of retaliation.”
“When employers retaliate against their workers for reporting unsafe working conditions, the department will work vigorously to secure the appropriate legal redress for workers,” said Regional Solicitor of Labor John Rainwater in Dallas. “The department is dedicated to ensuring safe and healthful working conditions guaranteed by the Occupational Safety and Health Act.”
On August 11, OSHA announced that the agency “revised the Whistleblower Investigations Manual for the agency in its ‘first complete overhaul since 2011.’” The revised manual “outlines procedures and other information relative to the handling of retaliation complaints under the various whistleblower statutes for which responsibility was delegated to OSHA,” according to prior WNN reporting.