A U.S. District Court denied a New York healthcare provider’s attempt to prevent OSHA from pursuing damages for a COVID-19 whistleblower.
OSHA filed a lawsuit in June 2021 against Community Health Center of Richmond and its CEO, Henry Thompson, who were accused of violating federal whistleblower provisions when they suspended and later terminated an employee who had workplace COVID-19 concerns.
The employee reported their concerns about the potential for COVID-19 exposure at an in-person staff meeting.
Dismissal of state claim has no effect
In October 2021, Thompson and his company filed a motion to prevent OSHA from seeking individual damages for the whistleblower, arguing that the earlier dismissal of a state whistleblower claim would prevent further proceedings in OSHA’s case.
The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York rejected that argument on Sept. 28, 2022, pointing out OSHA’s exclusive authority to seek damages for whistleblowers under the Occupational Safety and Health Act.
“This is a significant decision reaffirming the U.S. Department of Labor’s independent authority to pursue legal actions and relief for employees in the name of the public interest,” said Regional Solicitor of Labor Jeffrey Rogoff.