Federal court issues consent judgment requiring Luzerne County manufacturer to pay former employee $13K in whistleblower case
PLAINS TOWNSHIP, PA – A federal district court in the Middle District of Pennsylvania has issued a consent judgment ordering a Luzerne County paper box manufacturer and its owner to pay a former employee $13,000 after the U.S. Department of Labor alleged the defendants terminated the worker illegally because they mistakenly believed the employee had filed a safety complaint with the department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
The chain of events began in October 2017 after a Midvale employee filed a safety complaint with OSHA alleging that the company did not provide employees with personal protective equipment and lacked required lockout/tagout procedures. OSHA conducted a safety inspection and issued citations to the employer.
After the inspection, Midvale Paper Box Company Inc. and owner, David Frank, terminated an employee who then filed a whistleblower claim alleging that they were wrongly terminated because the company and its owner believed mistakenly that the employee they terminated had filed the OSHA complaint. Following its investigation, the department filed a complaint in federal court alleging the defendants violated the terminated employee’s whistleblower rights under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. Federal law forbids employers from taking adverse action against an employee who files an OSHA safety complaint.
“Protecting the right of an employee to file a federal workplace safety complaint or participate in an OSHA inspection are critical components in OSHA’s mission,” explained OSHA Regional Administrator Michael Rivera in Philadelphia. “Midvale Paper Box Company and owner David Frank are being held accountable for violating this employee’s rights.”
In addition to paying the terminated employee $13,000, the defendants must:
- Not violate the OSH Act’s whistleblower provisions in the future.
- Train all management and supervisory employees on workplace safety requirements and whistleblower protection rights.
- Post OSHA posters at the worksite that explain workplace safety requirements and whistleblower protection rights.
- Provide the employee a written, neutral job reference.
“The U.S. Department of Labor protects the rights of every U.S. worker to safe and healthful working conditions and to raise legitimate concerns about workplace safety without fear of suffering an employer’s retaliation,” said Deputy Regional Solicitor Samantha Thomas in Philadelphia.
Based in Plains Township, Midvale Paper Box Co. Inc. manufactures folding paper boxes with production and printing facilities in Pennsylvania, Ohio and California.
OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program enforces the whistleblower provisions of more than 20 whistleblower statutes protecting employees from retaliation for reporting violations of various workplace safety and health, airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, health insurance reform, motor vehicle safety, nuclear, pipeline, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime, securities, tax, antitrust, and anti-money laundering laws and for engaging in other related protected activities.
Editor's note: The U.S. Department of Labor does not release names of employees involved in whistleblower complaints.