Fired for reporting hazards, whistleblower wins $33K settlement
Perry Ridge Landfill and Panther City Hauling wrongfully terminate truck driver
DU QUOIN, Ill. A truck driver, who was fired the morning after he filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration alleging unsafe working conditions, will receive $33,000 under terms of a settlement agreement. The agreement resolves a lawsuit brought against employers Perry Ridge Landfill Inc., Panther City Hauling and their corporate officer, Joseph Mazza, for violating the whistleblower provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.
"No worker should need to ask repeatedly for adequate safety protection or face termination for reporting health and safety violations and exercising their whistleblower rights," said Nick A. Walters, OSHA's regional administrator in Chicago. "OSHA is committed to protecting the rights of America's workers, including those who suffer retaliation for filing complaints seeking to improve the safety and health of their work environment."
On July 26, 2011, the driver hauled a load of leachate, a fluid that seeps from a landfill into a system of pipes, from the Perry Ridge Landfill to the City of Du Quoin's treatment facility. As he transferred the fluid from the trailer, the driver slipped atop the trailer. Later that morning, he filed a complaint with OSHA alleging the company failed to provide adequate fall protection. The driver had, on several other occasions, requested additional fall protection equipment from Perry Ridge Landfill and Panther City Hauling, his direct employer, after similar slips. When he reported for work the next day, the driver was dismissed.
Pinckneyville-based Panther City performs hauling services for Perry Ridge Landfill, located in Du Quoin. The companies had shared corporate officers and other combined services, such as payroll and human resources. Perry Ridge Landfill will pay $28,250 to the driver immediately. Panther City will pay the driver a total of $4,750 in monthly installments beginning March 1, 2015. Under the agreement, both companies will remove derogatory information related to the dismissal from the worker's employment record and comply with the Occupational Safety and Health Act in the future.
The department's Regional Office of the Solicitor in Chicago litigated the case.
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of 22 statutes protecting employees who report violations of various airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, motor vehicle safety, health care reform, nuclear, pipeline, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime and securities laws.
Employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who raise various protected concerns or provide protected information to the employer or 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. More information 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.
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Editor's note: The U.S. Department of Labor does not release names of employees involved in whistleblower complaints.