OSHA defends employee fired for reporting hazards

An employee of a residential treatment facility for the mentally challenged in New Paltz, NY, who alleged that he was illegally fired for reporting a hazardous workplace condition, has been vindicated by the U.S. Labor Department. He will have all references to being fired removed from his personnel files and receive $15,000 in back wages.

According to Patricia Clark, New York regional administrator of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the complainant was employed as a resident manager at Gateway Community Manor in New Paltz, a not-for-profit agency devoted to the training and development of mentally and physically challenged adults.

He was terminated from his position in April, 1998, after he expressed concerns for himself and other staff members regarding exposure to bloodborne pathogens in connection with conducting a blood test on one of the residents.

In a consent judgment entered by the U.S. District Court, Northern District of New York, the defendant, Gateway Community Industries Inc., denied that it violated any provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act but agreed to pay $15,000 in back wages to the complainant, who has moved to California, as well as expunge all references to suspension or discharge from his file.

The court order, signed Nov. 12 by District Judge David Hurd, also requires the defendant to not discharge or otherwise discriminate against any employee for filing a complaint under the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

OSHA enforces whistle-blower protections that prohibit discharging or otherwise discriminating against any employee because he or she filed a complaint or reported unsafe working conditions under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the Surface Transportation Assistance Act, the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act, and other statutes.