SEATTLE — The U.S. Department of Labor filed a whistleblower complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho against Clearwater Paper Corp. in Lewiston, Idaho, for allegedly retaliating against an employee who raised workplace safety and health concerns.
The department's complaint alleges that a Clearwater Paper employee was fired in 2010 in retaliation for filing a safety complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's Boise Area Office. The employee was first suspended and then fired soon after OSHA conducted an inspection to assess excessive exposure to red cedar dust at Clearwater Paper's sawmill in Lewiston. This facility was later sold in 2011.
"Raising a workplace safety and health concern is a courageous act of good citizenship," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. "Not a single worker should fear harassment, intimidation or a disciplinary action for contributing to a safe and healthy workplace. Employees have the right to contact OSHA without fear of retaliation."
The department is seeking reinstatement of the employee as well as payment of more than $300,000 in damages and fees, including back pay, compensatory damages, emotional distress damages and punitive damages.
Clearwater Paper manufactures consumer paper products.
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provision of the OSH Act and 21 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of various securities, trucking, airline, nuclear, pipeline, environmental, public transportation, workplace safety and health, consumer product safety, health care reform and financial reform 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 Office of Whistleblower Protection Program. Detailed information on employee whistleblower rights, including fact sheets with information on how to file a complaint with OSHA, 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.