On June 28, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced that it had reached a settlement with a Delaware salvage yard company and its owner after an investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) determined that the company retaliated against a whistleblower who reported safety concerns.
Donovan Salvage Works will pay $40,000 in back wages and damages to a smelter operator who reported a smelter leaking propane to OSHA. The whistleblower was fired after making the report and OSHA determined that this was a wrongful termination and whistleblower retaliation.
“Employers who retaliate against workers who raise safety concerns create a potentially dangerous work environment and a chilling effect that discourages others from voicing their concerns,” said OSHA Regional Administrator Michael Rivera in Philadelphia. “No employee should fear retaliation or termination by an employer for freely exercising rights protected under the law.”
In addition to the back wages, the settlement requires Donovan Salvage Works to “remove references to protected activity and negative actions from the employee’s personnel file, provide a neutral job reference, post OSHA whistleblower postings at the worksite and provide whistleblower training to all employees,” according to OSHA.
“This settlement goes a long way in making the terminated employee whole and sends a clear and strong message from the U.S. Department of Labor to employers that worker safety must always be their first concern,” said Deputy Regional Solicitor Samantha Thomas in Philadelphia. “When employees exercise their right to report unsafe workplace conditions and face any form of retaliation, we will pursue all legal remedies to ensure employees are made whole and employers do not engage in similar conduct in the future.”
In 2021, then-Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh spoke at the National Whistleblower Center’s (NWC) National Whistleblower Day celebration. “I want to be clear: every worker has the right to speak up,” he said. “If they’re mistreated, denied their rights, or have concerns about safety. And when an employer retaliates, it’s not only wrong, it’s illegal.”
This year, NWC is holding an in-person event on Capitol Hill to celebrate the 10th anniversary of National Whistleblower Day. A group of whistleblowers are leading a campaign calling on President Biden to permanently recognize July 30 as National Whistleblower Day.