On June 10, 2010, a worker at Champagne Demolition LLC informed supervisor about how asbestos removal at a New York school worksite was being performed incorrectly.
The Albany-based demolition and construction disposal contractor fired the worker the next day and verbally threatened the employee. In response, the worker filed a complaint with OSHA, which opened an investigation through the agency's regional Office of Whistleblower Protection Programs in New York and found the allegations to have merit.
“We are pleased with the jury verdict and the judge’s ruling to hold this employer accountable for violating the employee’s rights,” said OSHA Regional Administrator Robert Kulick in a statement. “Every worker has the right to report potential safety and health hazards without fear of harassment, termination, or retaliation.”
The agency charged that Champagne Demolition and its owner, Joseph A. Champagne, discriminated against the worker by conducting retaliatory acts in violation of Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.
In a civil ruling, the United States District Court, Northern District of New York ordered the company and Champagne to pay $103,000 in back wages, $20,000 in compensatory and $50,000 in punitive damages to the worker. Attorneys Allison Bowles, Amy Tai, and Darren Cohen of the regional Office of the Solicitor in New York litigated the case.
“This jury verdict and the judge’s ruling on this case underscores the Labor Department’s commitment to ensuring that the law is followed and employees’ right to a healthy and safe workplace is maintained,” said Jeffrey S. Rogoff, New York regional solicitor of labor.