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DOL sues U.S. Postal Service over whistleblower retaliation

March 20, 2012
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USPSA safety specialist who was penalized after helping a worker file a safety complaint with OSHA is the subject of legal action by one federal agency against another.

An OSHA investigation found that the Seattle-based employee was reprimanded, restricted from contact with staff at the facility and transferred to an office without the necessary equipment to perform his job after his supervisors learned that he had informed a co-worker about her rights under the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act. That co-worker later filed a formal complaint with OSHA alleging unhealthful conditions at the facility.

The investigation also substantiated claims that the Postal Service reassigned many of the specialist's duties to an individual with a lower pay grade and did not select him for a promotion because of his interactions with OSHA despite acknowledging him as qualified for the position.

The Department of Labor has filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington alleging that the Postal Service violated the whistleblower protection provisions of Section 11(c) of the OSH Act.

"Hostility and retaliation against whistleblowers are simply unacceptable," said Dean Ikeda, OSHA's regional administrator in Seattle. "Hostility and retaliation against whistleblowers are simply unacceptable."

The Labor Department is asking the court to remedy the situation by ordering a permanent injunction against the Postal Service to prevent future violations of the law. The suit also asks for appropriate relief to the safety specialist, including the payment of lost wages and benefits, plus compensatory damages for emotional distress. The department is represented in court by its Regional Office of the Solicitor in Seattle.

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