Five years of legal wrangling following a workplace amputation – in which retaliation, intrigue and secret photos played a part – ended recently with a decision by a federal jury in Pennsylvania. The jury in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania found that Lloyd Industries Inc. and its owner, William P. Lloyd, unlawfully fired two employees because of their involvement in an OSHA investigation. A third was terminated right after having his hand crushed by a machine that lacked safety guards.
The saga began in July 2014, when an employee of Lloyd Industries, a leading manufacturer of fire dampers and HVAC products, suffered a serious injury that resulted in the amputation of three fingers. His employment was immediately terminated.
Secret picture taking documented unsafe machines
Four months later, OSHA opened an investigation into conditions at the Montgomeryville plant after receiving a complaint from the injured employee. Five days after that, company owner William P. Lloyd fired a worker he suspected to be a "rat" who had assisted the injured employee by providing him with pictures of the unguarded machine. Lloyd’s suspicions were well-founded, according to OSHA: the worker had not only taken photographs of the unguarded machine that caused the amputation. He’d snapped pictures of other areas of the shop and of employees operating unguarded machines and had shared all of those pictures with the injured man.
|"William P. Lloyd refuses to make his company safe. Whenever someone tries, they are fired."|
The photographer’s termination wasn’t the last one associated with the injury. Suspecting that the plant manager had cooperated with OSHA by providing damaging information during the inspection, Lloyd fired him as well. That action occurred on the same day the agency wrapped up its investigation and slapped the company with $822,000 in penalties.
The legal fallout included a lawsuit, complaints
The firings led to the just-settled lawsuit by the U.S. Department of Labor suit against the company and its owners, seeking to have the employees reinstated and compensated for lost wages and damages. They also led to complaints filed by the picture-taking employee who said he was fired for assisting the injured man in filing his complaint, and one filed by the fired plant manager who alleged he was fired for cooperating with OSHA.
"Lloyd Industries has a long, unfortunate history of putting employees at risk and defying federal officials. Since 2000, approximately 40 serious injuries including lacerations, crushed, fractured, dislocated and amputated fingers have been recorded," said Richard Mendelson, OSHA regional administrator in Philadelphia. "William P. Lloyd refuses to make his company safe. Whenever someone tries, they are fired."
In its review, the agency found that the company violated the anti-discrimination provision of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, or Section 11(c), when it terminated the complainants because they had engaged in the protected activities under the Act.
Although a verdict has been reached, damages have yet to be determined. That will happen during the trial’s second phase.
“The U.S. Department of Labor proved the employer unlawfully fired workers for participating in a safety inspection,” said Regional Philadelphia Solicitor Oscar L. Hampton III. “The jury agreed that the timing of these terminations was no mere coincidence and supported the workers’ legal right to a safe and healthy workplace.”