The termination of two employees who participated in an OSHA investigation into a workplace injury has resulted in a federal judge ordering their former employee to pay them $1,047,399 in lost wages and punitive damages.
The case began with a workplace incident in which one of the employees' co-workers suffered the amputation of three fingers. OSHA investigated the incident and two workers who participated in the investigation were fired by their employer, Lloyd Industries, Inc. of Montgomeryville, Pennsylvania.
|The court justified the award in light of the defendants' "deliberative flouting of the act."
The company fired one of the employees after OSHA began an onsite investigation, and fired the second employee shortly after OSHA issued citations and assessed Lloyd Industries with penalties.
A jury hearing the case in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania found that the manufacturing company and its owner, William P. Lloyd, illegally terminated the two in retaliation for their participation in the OSHA investigation.
The acts of retaliation violated Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act). The court's award of $500,000 in punitive damages is the largest punitive award ever under Section 11(c) of the OSH Act. The court justified the award in light of the defendants' "deliberative flouting of the act."
In addition to damages, the judge awarded the former employees $547,399 in front and back pay, prejudgment interest, and additional amounts to compensate for the adverse tax consequences of their receiving a large, one-time payment. The judge also ordered that Lloyd Industries and William P. Lloyd post an anti-retaliation notice at the plant immediately, and never again violate Section 11(c) of the OSH Act.
"The court recognized that all employees have a federally protected right to speak out against unsafe and unhealthy working conditions, to participate in U.S. Department of Labor investigations, and to be compensated if they are terminated in retaliation for exercising those rights," said Regional Solicitor Oscar L. Hampton III, in Philadelphia. "The significant punitive damages sends a strong message to this employer and others that deliberately violating these laws will not be tolerated."
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of more than 20 whistleblower statutes protecting employees who report violations of various airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, motor vehicle safety, healthcare reform, nuclear, pipeline, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime, and securities laws. For more information on whistleblower protections, visit OSHA's Whistleblower Protection Programs webpage.