Two Firms Docked for Firing Whistleblowers

Firing an employee who blows the whistle on safety issues is a violation of federal law and will invariably come back to bite the employer.

That’s what happened to two companies this week that fired workers because they had raised safety concerns.

In one case, the U.S. Labor Department ordered Washington River Protection Solutions, a subsidiary of URS Corp. and Energy Solutions, to reinstate and pay $220,000 in back pay and other expenses to a worker allegedly fired for voicing concerns about nuclear and environmental safety. According to DOL, the worker first blew the whistle on nuclear and environmental safety and permit and recordkeeping violations in 2009. He was fired two years later and reapplied for the job in 2012. The company cited “poor performance” as the reason for the initial firing. WRPS is a contractor at the Handford, Washington nuclear reservation.

In the second case Asphalt Specialists Inc., headquartered in Pontiac, Michigan, was ordered by DOL to reinstate a trucker and two foremen who were fired for raising safety concerns. In addition to reinstating the employees, the company must pay a total of $953,916 in damages: $243,916 in back wages to the drivers, $110,000 in compensatory damages and $600,000 in punitive damages.

Given these outcomes, ask yourself if it is ever worth it to fire someone because they raised safety concerns. Even if you think the firing was for some other reason, make sure you document that well and avoid any suggestion that their complaints were the issue.

Here’s DOL’s announcement in the trucking company case.

And here’s the announcement in the nuclear plant case.

 

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