Last week, OSHA awarded a Connecticut man $75,000 plus attorneys fees last week, punishing his employer for retaliating against him after he reported a work-related injury.
The injury took place back in July of 2008. The man had apparently been injured while operating a shuttle wagon at the time of the incident. The wagon had apparently derailed and thrown him into a pit, causing injuries in his back and shoulders. After the incident, the man came into a dispute with his employer as to who was responsible for the accident. While management claimed the accident was due to the man failing to correctly set the wagon of the rails, the man maintained the employer was at fault.
After the dispute, the man was suspended for 10 days. After filing a retaliation claim with OSHA, he was suspended for another 30 days. Railroad management claimed that the man failed to report his injuries correctly and was giving OSHA false statements.
In its decision, OSHA noted that the company's actions in regard to the second suspension were illegal since they were intended to punish an employee for reporting work-related injuries. The railroad company was fined $85,000 and ordered to inform its employees of their rights under the federal whistleblower rights.
According to U.S. Department of Labor, an employee may have a retaliation claim if their employer knowingly punished them for exercising their safety and health rights. Employees' rights include filing a complaint with OSHA, seeking or participating in an OSHA inspection, and participating or testifying in a proceeding concerning an OSHA inspection. Punishment may consist of a variety of adverse actions, including firing or laying off, demoting, denying benefits, making threats, failing to hire or rehire, or reducing pay or hours.
Source: Source: Hartford Courant, "OSHA Backs Meriden Man In Metro-North Complaint," Mara Lee, 5 Jan 2011.