A former Occupational Health and Safety Administration employee has finally come to an agreement with the federal government over whistleblower retaliation allegations. The dispute went on for four years after the former record-keeping chief was fired after speaking with reporters about the agency's practice of allowing employers to underreport injuries.
It is illegal to fire an employee for exposing illegal conduct or misconduct and it is particularly ironic that in this case, the employer who fired the whistleblower was a federal agency tasked with protecting workers.
The man spoke out specifically about dangerous conditions in poultry factories in the United States. The Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 was enacted specifically to protect federal employees in this type of situation.
Part of the agreement included a promise not to seek a job with the United States Department of Labor any time during the next 15 years. The former workplace safety regulator says that he is happy with the settlement but wishes that he still had his job so that he could finish what he set out to do in his career.
His attorney told reporters that the choice to speak out about accident underreporting saved lives and prevented injuries.
Whistleblower protections and large awards for those who speak out are intended to encourage employees to say something when they see illegal activity or dangerous conduct. In this case, the former OSHA employee says that he hopes his settlement will encourage people who are on the fence about speaking up to go ahead and follow their convictions.
Source: The Charlotte Observer, "Feds to pay OSHA whistleblower $820,000 settlement," Ames Alexander, June 5, 2013