Whistleblower Reinstated Following Firing for OSHA Complaint

A Brooklyn, N.Y., book wholesaler must offer to reinstate and pay compensation of more than $18,000 to an employee who was fired for filing a safety complaint with OSHA.

An OSHA whistleblower investigation found that Books for Less LLC, 101 Steuben St., had fired the employee on March 3, 2 days after an OSHA inspection prompted by the employee's complaint.

OSHA ordered the company to reinstate the worker. DOL attorneys then filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York that resulted in a consent judgment signed July 19 by U.S. District Judge Sandra L.Townes.

"Employees have the right to file a complaint with OSHA about possible safety and health hazards without fear of retaliation or termination," said Patricia Clark, OSHA regional administrator in New York. "This judgment reinforces the Labor Department's commitment to secure appropriate legal recourse for workers who are punished for exercising their right to a safe and healthful workplace."

The judgment orders Books for Less LLC and Michael Shmuely, its owner and president, to offer to reinstate the employee to his former, or a substantially equivalent position, pay $18,365 in back wages, health-care benefits and pre-judgment interest, and restore to the worker all employee benefits he would have earned had his employment not been interrupted.

It also prohibits the defendants from discharging or discriminating against any employee who files an OSHA complaint and orders them to post a notice to employees about their whistleblower rights under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. In consenting to the judgment, the defendants neither admit nor deny the allegations in the complaint.

Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act protects a worker's right to file a complaint with OSHA or bring safety and health issues to the attention of their employer. Information about the whistle-blower provisions of this and other laws is available at www.osha.gov/dep/oia/whistleblower/index.html.

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