Whistleblower fired for reporting asbestos in condo complex to be compensated
A Columbia, South Carolina, real estate management company has agreed to pay a former employee $45,000 and take other measures to ensure federal whistleblower provisions aren’t violated in the future, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced. The agreement settles a complaint brought against CMM Realty Inc. and its owner for allegedly terminating a maintenance worker after he reported asbestos control violations to state and federal regulatory agencies.
According to OSHA, in May 2009 the employee was working at CMM’s Briargate Condominiums in Columbia when he encountered problems involving asbestos and asbestos exposure. Contact with asbestos fibers can lead to lung cancer, mesothelioma, and other cancers as well as certain nonmalignant lung disorders.
The worker reported the asbestos exposures to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Conservation and a regional OSHA office. The worker then received notification from his employer that same day that his services were no longer needed. His employment was officially terminated five days later.
An inspection conducted by both agencies resulted in citations against CMM for violating asbestos control standards.
After he was fired, the employee filed a complaint with the federal OSHA office. A subsequent investigation found that CMM had violated the Clean Air Act’s whistleblower provisions by terminating the worker for reporting the asbestos hazards. OSHA ordered the worker reinstated and compensated.
The company appealed that order to the Labor Department’s Office of Administrative Law Judges. In 2011, the department sued CMM in federal court for violating a section of the OSHA Act that forbids companies from discriminating against employees for filing a complaint with OSHA. The Labor Department requested to have the case stayed pending the outcome of litigation.
A consent judgment filed in a South Carolina federal court provides for a payment of $45,000 to the employee, removes all disciplinary actions from the his employment record, and provides prospective employers with a neutral reference.
“OSHA is committed to securing workers’ right of protection from retaliation upon reporting workplace safety and/or environmental concerns,” said Cindy A. Coe, OSHA’s regional administrator in Atlanta. “We are pleased that the Labor Department has reached an agreement in this matter consistent with our commitment.”
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