All employees have the right to a safe workplace. Federal and state law embodies that, but people have to enforce those laws. That is why the Occupational Safety and Health Administration exists, but Bob Whitmore, a former OSHA official felt that his own workplace was failing to uphold their duty to the rest of the nation.
Whitmore worked in the record-keeping department where he began noticing that the agency tasked with keeping workers safe was actually allowing employers to under-report the number of workplace injuries that were occurring each year. When he spoke about the issue to reporters in 2009, he was fired.
"I think Bob paid a very big price for people injured in the workplace," said his lawyer when questioned about the termination. Whitmore could have sat idly by and allowed the underreporting to continue -- something that could have left workers exposed in unsafe environments. Instead, he spoke up and was fired shortly after.
At this point, it was time for Whitmore to stand up for his own rights. After working for the Labor Department for 37 years, he filed an employment lawsuit against his former employer based on whistleblower protection laws. This month, he was awarded $820,000 in damages for the retaliation he suffered.
The Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility is a nonprofit, government workers advocacy group. The senior counsel for the group spoke a warning that is appropriate to summarize this post. The award, he said "sends a message to employers: Retaliate against whistleblowers at your peril."
Source: Charlotte Observer, "Feds to pay OSHA whistleblower $820,000 settlement," Ames Alexander, June 5, 2013