The U.S. Department of Labor has reached an agreement with Shawnee-based Modern Oil Co. Inc., doing business as Kwick Stop Convenience Stores, and Sparkman Brothers Inc., resolving a lawsuit filed by the department alleging that the company illegally terminated a cashier because of a safety complaint made to the supervisor and to the department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

A consent judgment filed with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma provides for injunctive relief, reinstatement of the employee as a full-time cashier and payment of $17,000 in back wages. The judgment also requires the defendants to post notices at their facilities of the Occupational Safety and Health Act's anti-discrimination and anti-retaliation provisions.

"Every employee has the right to a safe and healthful workplace, and no one should ever fear losing a job or facing retaliation by an employer for exercising that right," said William A. Burke, OSHA's acting regional administrator in Dallas. "This settlement underscores the Labor Department's commitment to protect workers who have been treated unfairly simply for doing the right thing."

The OSHA whistleblower investigation found that the employee, a cashier at the Kwick Stop store in Shawnee, had complained to a supervisor that beverage boxes inside the cooler were stacked too high and were creating a safety hazard. When the supervisor failed to correct the hazard, the employee filed a complaint with the local OSHA office. A few weeks later, the worker was fired.

OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the OSH Act and 20 additional statutes protecting employees who report violations of various securities laws; trucking, airline, nuclear, pipeline, environmental, rail, and workplace safety and health regulations; and consumer product and food safety laws. Under the various whistleblower provisions enacted by Congress, employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who raise various protected concerns or provide protected information to the employer or to the government.