At the same time that it’s appealing OSHA fines in federal court, SeaWorld has filed a complaint asking the Department of Labor to look into the conduct of the inspector who investigated the death of a trainer who was pulled underwater by a killer whale.
In January, photos of OSHA inspector Lara Padgett surfaced, showing her socializing with the cast and crew of the film Blackfish, a documentary critical of SeaWorld’s treatment of the whales.
OSHA said it would look into Padgett’s conduct.
But now SeaWorld is fanning the flames by making allegations about Padgett.
In its complaint to the federal government, SeaWorld alleges Padgett:
- leaked confidential company documents to the makers of Blackfish
- posted critical comments about SeaWorld on social media, and
- engaged in unethical conduct by socializing with the makers of the documentary at film festivals.
In a statement, SeaWorld V.P. of Communication Fred Jacobs stated Padgett “may have acted with a different agenda, one that is sympathetic to animal rights activism.”
SeaWorld says its allegations are based on evidence it has collected over the past year.
Padgett hasn’t commented on the situation. OSHA said in a statement, “Allegations involving employee conduct are taken seriously and OSHA is investigating.”
A producer of the documentary says Padgett and other OSHA officials refused to be interviewed for the film and didn’t offer documents or any other assistance.
On Feb. 24, 2010, killer whale Tilikum pulled trainer Dawn Brancheau underwater and drowned her at SeaWorld’s Orlando park.
OSHA issued willful violations to SeaWorld and said its trainers should never again have close, unprotected contact with killer whales.
The Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission upheld the violations. SeaWorld has appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, DC. A decision from that court could come at any time.