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Another Hefty OSHA Whistleblower Award + Reinstatement

On September 26, 2014, OSHA issued a preliminary order that an Illinois employer, Stericycle Inc. (the Company), reinstate and pay $262,000 to a supervisor who was discharged after allegedly reporting safety concerns to management.

OSHA, Occupational Safety and Health Administration Logo

The Company specializes in the disposal of biohazard waste.  One of its transportation supervisors, a specialist in biohazard waste disposal at its Wichita location, alleged that a driver was instructed to pull a trailer without a valid license plate in contravention of Department of Transportation regulations.  The supervisor reported these safety concerns to management, and on September 14, 2012, was discharged.  The supervisor subsequently filed a complaint alleging whistleblower retaliation in violation of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act (the STAA).

According to OSHA, the supervisor engaged in protected activity when he reported his safety concerns to management, and his complaint contributed to the decision to terminate his employment.  OSHA ordered Stericycle to reinstate the supervisor, pay him $261,787 in backpay and damages, and remove reference to the discharge decision from his record.  OSHA also ordered Stericycle to distribute to its workforce a notice of their whistleblower rights.

This is yet another example of the vigorous approach OSHA has taken to enforcing a range of whistleblower protection laws.  Query whether the enforceability of the preliminary order will be challenged in federal court proceedings and whether the complainant will choose to pursue the matter before the Department of Labor or in federal court.  We’ll watch this one closely and keep our loyal readers posted.

© 2017 Proskauer Rose LLP.

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About this Author

Steven J Pearlman, Labor Employment Law Firm, Proskauer Law firm
Partner

Steven Pearlman is a partner in the Labor & Employment Law Department and co-head of the firm's Whistleblowing & Retaliation Group, resident in the Chicago office. Steven’s practice focuses on defending complex employment litigation involving claims of discrimination and harassment, wage-and-hour laws and breaches of restrictive covenants (e.g., non-competition agreements). He has successfully tried cases to verdict before judges and juries in Illinois, Florida and California, and defended what is reported to be the largest Illinois-only class action in the history of the U.S....

312-962-3545
Gray I. Mateo-Harris, Labor & Employment Attorney, Proskauer Law Firm
Associate

Gray I. Mateo-Harris is an Associate in the Labor & Employment Law Department, resident in the Chicago office. Gray’s practice focuses on counseling and representing employers and executives in a variety of labor and employment law matters.

She defends employers in litigation at the state court and federal court level, including through trial and appeals, with respect to restrictive covenant, wage and hour and other contract- and tort-based actions as well as claims arising under state statutes such as the Illinois Human Rights Act, the Illinois Minimum Wage Law, the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act and the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act, and federal statutes such as the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Equal Pay Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act. Gray also routinely represents employers in traditional labor matters, including second-chairing collective bargaining negotiations, litigating grievance and contract arbitrations, and defending investigations before the National Labor Relations Board. She represents employers before numerous administrative agencies, including the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Illinois Department of Human Rights and the Illinois Department of Labor.

312-962-3506