It should come as no surprise to a company that it will face a retaliation complaint if it fires a whistleblower who complained to OSHA about workplace safety.
That’s the situation Sodexo, a Maryland company that provides facility management services to school districts, finds itself in.
Brian Barker was employed by Sodexo as manager of grounds keeping for the South Plainfield School District in New Jersey. Barker says he warned his managers at Sodexo about safety conditions, but the company didn’t take action. Then, Barker went to OSHA.
OSHA issued nine serious violations to Sodexo, including ones for:
- not having a working lock system on a cabinet used to store gasoline and diesel fuel
- failing to perform an assessment to determine if protective gear was needed by employees working with gasoline, diesel, weed killer and field-marking paint
- lack of safety training for workers
- failing to confirm that employees were competent to operate forklifts
- an overhead electrical junction box without an appropriate cover, and
- failing to develop, implement or maintain a hazard communication program for workers handling chemicals.
OSHA initially issued Sodexo $10,800 in fines. Sodexo recently settled the matter for $8,100.
Barker says four days after OSHA issued its findings to Sodexo, his position was eliminated without any justification, and he was fired.
Sodexo says it took immediate action to address the OSHA citations. It hasn’t issued any comment on Barker’s situation.
OSHA recently made it easier for employees to find information on the web about filing a retaliation complaint. It now has a dedicated web page with instructions on how to file a complaint at www.whistleblowers.gov