While on the job at a demolition project in Buffalo, N.Y., a demolition and asbestos abatement worker employed by Regional Environmental Demolition Inc. noticed weakened and deteriorated sections of flooring. At one of these soft spots, his foot broke through the floor.
Concerned that he or others on site could fall through the floors and suffer serious injury or death, the worker told his superiors at the Niagara Falls-based company multiple times about the safety concerns he had about serious risks workers at the site faced.
But instead of listening to the worker’s concerns, Regional Environmental Demolition fired the worker just after the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) contacted the company in response to an anonymous complaint it had received about poor safety conditions.
The fired worker subsequently filed a complaint with OSHA, claiming the company had retaliated against him for voicing his concerns. The agency investigated the worker’s allegations and filed a lawsuit in a New York federal court Feb. 19 against Regional Environmental Demolition and its officials, Charles Van Epps and Enrico Liberale, alleging they had wrongfully retaliated against the employee for raising safety concerns.
The suit seeks lost wages, compensatory damages, interest, front pay, emotional and financial distress damages, and punitive damages. The complaint also seeks to have the employer remove all references to the matter erased from his personnel records.
“Regional Environmental Demolition had no reason and no right to fire this worker for repeatedly reporting a safety hazard that could have seriously harmed him and his fellow workers,” said Robert Kulick, OSHA’s regional administrator in New York. “Firing or retaliating against workers who raise safety concerns is intimidation, plain and simple. If employees fear losing their jobs, hazards can go unreported and injuries can result,”