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OSHA files whistleblower suit against contractor working at Camp Pendleton, Calif. (9/14)

September 14, 2009
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OSHA has filed a whistleblower suit on behalf of a worker fired by a government contractor responsible for cleaning up unexploded ordnance at the Camp Pendleton Marine base in San Diego County.

The suit alleges that Anchorage, Alaska-based Bering Sea Eccotech terminated a worker who complained of safety violations after observing two incidents of dangerous on-the-job explosions. The worker was laid off shortly after sending e-mails to upper management expressing safety concerns and was barred from re-hire. Bering Sea Eccotech, wholly owned by Tanadgusix Corp., specializes in unexploded ordnance clean-up, range management and remediation services.

The former employee filed a complaint with OSHA in 2007 alleging retaliation by Bering Sea Eccotech in violation of Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act. OSHA investigated the complaint and determined it had merit. After being notified of OSHA's findings, the employer refused to reinstate the worker to the same or a substantially equivalent position of employment, and refused to pay back wages or other employment benefits.

"Workers must be free to exercise their rights under the law without fear of termination or retaliation by their employers," said Ken Nishiyama Atha, OSHA's regional administrator in San Francisco. "This lawsuit underscores the Labor Department's commitment to act vigorously in protecting those rights to ensure our workplaces are safe for all workers."

Filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California Sept. 3, the suit seeks to reinstate the employee, secure compensatory damages and lost wages, and require the company to post a notice in a prominent place for 60 days that explains employee rights under Section 11(c) of the OSH Act.

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