OSHA News Release: [07/18/2011]
Contact Name: Juan Rodriguez or Elizabeth Todd
Phone Number: (972) 850-4709 or (972) 850-4710
Release Number: 11-1072-DAL
US Department of Labor files whistleblower lawsuit against Conroe, Texas-based Full Circle Enterprises
CONROE, Texas The U.S. Department of Labor has filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division, alleging that Full Circle Enterprises Inc. of Conroe illegally terminated an employee because of complaints regarding illegal drug use and a lack of proper respirators to protect employees from paint fumes at the facility.
"Employees should be free to exercise their rights under the law without fear of termination or retaliation by their employers," said John Hermanson, regional administrator of the department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration in Dallas. "This lawsuit underscores the Labor Department's commitment to vigorously take action to protect those rights."
OSHA opened an investigation after the worker filed a whistleblower complaint with the agency alleging retaliation by the company in violation of Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, which prohibits discharge or other retaliation against workers for filing a safety or health complaint, or for exercising other rights afforded to them by the act. The investigation revealed that the employee was fired after filing the initial complaint with OSHA regarding drug use and the lack of respirators.
The Labor Department is seeking reinstatement of the employee; payment of lost wages and benefits, including interest; other appropriate monetary relief, including compensatory and punitive damages; and expunction of any mention of protected activity from the employee's records. Additionally, the department is seeking to require Full Circle Enterprises to post a notice to its employees stating it will not discriminate against them for engaging in protected activities. The suit also seeks to enjoin Full Circle Enterprises from violating the OSH Act in the future.
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of 21 statutes protecting employees who report violations of various airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, health care reform, nuclear, pipeline, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime and securities laws. Under these laws enacted by Congress, 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 for an investigation by OSHA's Whistleblower Protection Program. Detailed information on employee whistleblower rights, including fact sheets, is available online 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.
Editor's note: The U.S. Department of Labor does not release names of employees involved in whistleblower complaints.