An instrument fitter who found himself out of a job after complaining about an unsafe crane lift will receive back wages and protection against more retaliation, in a settlement between the U.S. Department of Labor, his former employer and the general contractor who insisted on his firing.

The agreement between the DOL, Baton Rouge, La.-based MMR Contractors and Greenville, S.C.-based Fluor Corp. resolves findings OSHA that the two companies illegally terminated the employee in Franklin for complaints about safety and health issues.

An OSHA whistleblower investigator found the instrument fitter complained numerous times to his employer, MMR Contractors, and also to Fluor Corp., the general contractor at the worksite, about an unsafe crane lift that exposed workers to possible death or serious injuries from being crushed or struck by the overhead crane load. Shortly after making the complaints, Fluor insisted MMR remove the worker from the Oak Grove Power Plant worksite in Franklin, and MMR promptly terminated the employee. Both companies claimed the employee was terminated for disruptive behavior. OSHA argued the employee's behavior was excused under the "leeway doctrine" of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

"Employees must be free to exercise their rights under the law without fear of termination or retaliation by their employers," said William A. Burke, OSHA's acting regional administrator in Dallas, Texas. "This settlement underscores the Labor Department's commitment to vigorously protect those rights."

In lieu of litigation, the parties resolved their differences through a settlement agreement, which was negotiated by the department's Regional Solicitor's Office in Dallas. MMR and Fluor will pay the employee $17,500 in back wages; purge any reference to his termination from his personnel file; provide neutral employment references; and agree not to unlawfully retaliate against the crane operator, or any employee, for engaging in activities protected by Section 11(c) of the OSH Act.