A federal judge in Washington ordered the U.S. Postal Service to pay an employee nearly $230,000 in damages and raise his pay for retaliating against him after he encouraged a co-worker to report job-related health concerns to federal safety authorities.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the employee started working with the Postal Service as a mail carrier in 1995. After delivering mail for a number of years, the employee was promoted to the position of safety specialist, which required him to provide safety advice to more than 300 small postal facilities and area offices throughout Washington State. OSHA said the employee excelled in this position.
Things began to change in 2008 after he advised a coworker to report workplace health concerns she had to OSHA. He found himself working in “an increasingly hostile work environment,” and within months he was transferred another office, forced to work in an unheated storage room, demoted, publicly humiliated, and subjected to a series of antagonistic interviews. The employee also received a disciplinary letter and was refused a promotion. He filed his first whistleblower complaint to OSHA in April 2008, followed by several more complaints as the hostilities increased.
The whistleblower’s multiple complaints finally caught OSHA’s attention, prompting the agency to investigate. OSHA determined the employee’s complaints were valid and acted on his behalf.
“This employee suffered grave public humiliation by his Postal Service supervisors and was the target of ridicule simply for doing his job and for standing up for the rights of a co-worker,” said Ken Atha, OSHA regional administrator in Seattle.
On Feb. 13, a federal judge in Seattle agreed with OSHA’s findings. The court found him entitled to $229,228 in damages. The court also required the Postal Service to promote him to the same pay rate he would have now had he not been denied a promotion.
The judge also ordered the Postal Service to refrain from lashing out at employees who complain or cooperate with OSHA and admonished it for failing to take action against managers who interfere with employees who are exercising their rights.
Source: U.S. Department of Labor