Tennessee Fines Fred's Inc. For Safety Violations, Wants Employee Rehired

The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development Division of Occupational Safety and Health (TOSHA) fined Fred's Inc. $19,250 for multiple violations of federal job safety regulations at the company's distribution center in Memphis.

The June 23 citation follows a TOSHA investigation of the Memphis facility and includes 10 violations likely to cause "death or serious physical harm." Fred's refused to allow TOSHA to inspect its distribution center in February, forcing TOSHA to obtain a warrant from the Chancery Court in Memphis.

TOSHA cited Fred's for:

  • Fire safety hazards, including locked, blocked and unmarked fire exit doors.
  • Failure to train and certify forklift operators.
  • Obstructed, hazardous aisles.
  • Hazardous electrical equipment "likely to cause death or serious harm to employees."

The agency also asked the state attorney general to seek a court order forcing Fred's to rehire Greg Staples, a three-year Fred's employee fired after serving as the workers' representative for TOSHA's inspection. Staples walked around the facility with the inspectors from TOSHA.

"I was evaluated each year and my evaluations were good," explained Staples. "I was disciplined each time TOSHA contacted Fred's, then Fred's fired me."

Workers at the Fred's distribution center voted overwhelmingly for a union with the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees (UNITE) in May 2002. Fred's management has fought unionization. Although all 17 of the employer's objections to the union vote were overturned by the National Labor Relations Board at a hearing last year, Fred's continues to appeal the decision.

"Fred's does not respect the law of Tennessee or the safety of its employees," declared Brad Rayson, director of UNITE's Kentucky-Tennessee District. "Fred's has flouted the law through these life-threatening safety violations, through its refusal to allow the TOSHA inspection, and in the illegal harassment and termination of Greg Staples."

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