A machine operator who was allegedly fired in retaliation for reporting injuries that he and a co-worker suffered on the job at a Wisconsin manufacturing facility has been awarded $100,000 in back wages and compensatory damages.
The judgment resolves a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Labor against Menasha, Wisconsin-based Dura-Fibre LLC under the anti-retaliation provision of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act).
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the court heard arguments that Dura-Fibre terminated the employee based on the company’s practice of assigning “disciplinary points” to employees who reported work-related injuries. The court found this policy potentially deterred employees from reporting work-related injuries in violation of federal anti-retaliation protections intended to protect whistleblowers.
In addition to paying back wages and damages, the laminated paperboard products manufacturer agreed to clear the employee’s termination and all references to it from his work record. Dura-Fibre also agreed to train managers and employees on how to properly report work-related injuries and illness. Company managers also agreed to inform employees of anti-retaliation provisions and other employee protections under the Occupational Safety and Health Act and post information about OSHA whistleblower rights.
“This employee’s commitment to workplace safety should be commended,” said OSHA Regional Administrator Kenneth Nishiyama in Chicago. “Dura-Fibre has agreed to change its policy to allow employees to report work-related injuries without fear of discipline or retaliation.”
Fear of retaliation is a tactic some employers use to discourage workers from reporting workplace injuries that may expose unsafe work conditions to federal or state authorities. To help prevent this from occurring, OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of 22 employee-protection statutes across a spectrum of industries. Because it is illegal for an employer to fire, demote, transfer, or otherwise retaliate against a worker for exercising his or her rights under the law, OSHA encourages workers to file a whistleblower complaint within 30 days of the alleged retaliation.