Federal authorities took the side of a whistleblower who complained that his employer, a Vermont real estate company, fired him in retaliation for reporting what he believed were illegal transactions within the company.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) said it ordered Hermitage Club Realty LLC to pay the former employee/whistleblower $42,693 in back pay, bonuses, and compensatory damages.
Hermitage Club Realty, the on-site realty agency of a luxury ski and golf development in Wilmington, Vermont, fired the employee on Dec. 18, 2017, after he filed a formal complaint with Vermont regulators, according to OSHA.
OSHA investigated the employee’s complaint and determined that the company’s actions violated the whistleblower provisions of the Consumer Financial Protection Act (CFPA) of 2011, which prohibits employers from retaliating against “covered” employees for engaging in “protected activity.”
Congress passed the CFPA after the housing market collapse of the late 2000s, which many blamed on illegal lending practices and other unlawful activity.
“OSHA’s investigation confirmed the complainant appropriately alerted state regulators,” said OSHA Regional Administrator Galen Blanton. “CFPA prohibits retaliation against whistleblowers for reporting activities that they reasonably believe violate federal consumer financial protection laws to state regulators.”
In addition to back pay and damages, OSHA also ordered Hermitage Club Realty to erase from the whistleblower’s employment record any references to him exercising his CFPA rights. OSHA also ordered the company to refrain from retaliating or discriminating against the complainant, and to post a notice about OSHA’s findings in the case in a conspicuous place in or around its facility.
Both the company and the whistleblower have the right to appeal OSHA’s order to the agency’s Office of Administrative Law Judges.