Paint fume complaint leads to termination, whistleblower lawsuit
The U.S. Department of Labor has filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division, alleging that Full Circle Enterprises Inc. of Conroe, Texas illegally terminated an employee because of complaints regarding illegal drug use and a lack of proper respirators to protect employees from paint fumes at the facility.
Employees should be free to exercise their rights under the law without fear of termination or retaliation by their employers," said John Hermanson, regional administrator of the department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration in Dallas. "
OSHA opened an investigation after the worker filed a whistleblower complaint with the agency alleging retaliation by the company in violation of Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, which prohibits discharge or other retaliation against workers for filing a safety or health complaint, or for exercising other rights afforded to them by the act. The investigation revealed that the employee was fired after filing the initial complaint with OSHA regarding drug use and the lack of respirators.
The Labor Department is seeking reinstatement of the employee; payment of lost wages and benefits, including interest; other appropriate monetary relief, including compensatory and punitive damages; and expunction of any mention of protected activity from the employee's records. Additionally, the department is seeking to require Full Circle Enterprises to post a notice to its employees stating it will not discriminate against them for engaging in protected activities. The suit also seeks to enjoin Full Circle Enterprises from violating the OSH Act in the future.