OSHA Orders New Jersey Window Company to Reinstate Whistleblower

April 5th, 2012 by DWM Magazine

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has ordered Jersey Window Factory & Building Supply Inc., based in Newark, N.J., to reinstate a truck driver who was fired after reporting safety concerns about the commercial vehicle he was driving.

An investigation by OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program found reasonable cause that the termination violated the whistleblower provision of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act, according to an announcement by OSHA. The agency has ordered the company to pay the former worker back wages and bonuses that cover the period from July 2008 until a bona fide offer of reinstatement is made. The company also has been ordered to pay $18,000 in compensatory damages.

The employee raised concerns verbally and in a letter about vehicle defects, including broken sideview mirrors, a driver’s door that couldn’t be opened properly, a broken window handle and a deficient steering mechanism. After submitting a second letter, which outlined further safety concerns and questioned whether the company’s safety practices were in violation of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, the employee’s hours were reduced. The employee subsequently filed an OSHA safety complaint and was terminated on July 2, 2008.

Either party to the case has 30 days from receipt of the findings to file an appeal with the Labor Department’s Office of Administrative Law Judges, according to OSHA.

“Workers have the right to voice safety concerns without fear of retaliation or termination,” said Robert Kulick, OSHA’s regional administrator in New York. “Employers found in violation of whistleblower protection provisions will be held accountable.”

Under the various whistleblower provisions enacted by Congress, 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 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.

Jersey Window Factory & Building Supply Inc. has not yet responded to DWM’s request for comment.

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