An employee brings a safety concern to his manager. The manager thinks the worker is being disruptive. What happens next?
In a case involving a power plant in Texas, the employee was fired.
That led to a whistleblower complaint to OSHA. After an investigation, OSHA found the employee was terminated illegally.
Now, OSHA has reached a settlement with Baton Rouge, LA-based MMR Contractors and Greenville, SC-based Fluor Corp.
The unnamed worker, an instrument fitter, complained several times to his employer, MMR, and also to Fluor Corp. the general contractor at the worksite, about an unsafe crane lift that exposed workers to serious injuries from being crushed or struck by an overhead load.
Fluor insisted MMR remove the worker from the worksite, and MMR fired him.
Both companies said the employee was let go for disruptive behavior.
However, OSHA said the employee’s behavior was excused under the “leeway doctrine” of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.
The doctrine states that employers have to give workers some leeway when they report potential safety problems. Employers should expect employees might be riled up when bringing a safety problem to a supervisor’s attention
As part of the settlement, MMR and Fluor have agreed to:
- pay the employee $17,500 in back wages
- purge any reference to his termination from his personnel file
- provide neutral employment references, and
- agree not to retaliate against any employee for engaging in activities protected by the Occupational Safety and Health Act.
Have you ever encountered an employee who was really worked up over a potential safety problem? How did you handle the situation? Let us know in the Comments Box below.