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Dec
2015
18

CT Whistleblower Case Has Workers Breathing Easy Following Exposure to Inhalation Hazards

Image via the company in question's website

Image via the company in question’s website



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The U.S. Department of Labor has filed a complaint against a Connecticut-based retractable awning manufacturer for illegally terminating two employees after they filed safety and health complaints with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).  The owner of Eastern Awning Systems Inc., Stephen Lukos, could face a jury trial in the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut if a request from OSHA is approved.  All attempts to settle the case without litigation were unsuccessful.

The case revolves around two former employees who came forward with whistleblower complaints in 2009:

Two Eastern Awning employees filed safety and health complaints with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration after they became ill while working in the plant’s powder coat room in June, 2009. OSHA inspected in response to the complaints, and the company was cited in December 2009 for willfully exposing the workers to inhalation hazards and for lack of adequate ventilation. While OSHA’s inspection was ongoing, the company and Lukos discharged the two employees.

The employees then filed anti-discrimination, or whistleblower complaints with OSHA regarding their terminations. The whistleblower investigation found that that the defendants unlawfully discharged the two employees because they filed the safety and health complaints with OSHA.

In a statement, OSHA’s New England regional administrator Kim Stille said:

“This is a case where an employer willfully exposed its employees to workplace hazards, then compounded its unacceptable behavior by retaliating against these workers for exercising their rights to a healthy work environment.”

Michael Felsen, OSHA’s regional solicitor of labor for New England, added:

“The law is clear and so is our message to employers: You cannot discriminate against employees for filing complaints with OSHA or voicing concerns about hazardous conditions in the workplace. When employers take retaliatory actions as the defendants did here, we will pursue strong and appropriate remedies, including through legal action if needed”

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