OSHA’s whistleblower complaint against automotive supplier resolved

OSHA’s whistleblower complaint against automotive supplier resolved
Lear Corp. agrees to makes significant changes at Selma plant

MOBILE, Ala. The U.S. Department of Labor announced today that its lawsuit against Lear Corp., doing business as Renosol Seating LLC, and three of its managers in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama has been resolved. The company manufactures foam seating for the automotive industry. The department and the company have filed a joint motion with the court setting forth the resolution and asking the court to dismiss the case in light of it.

Filed on March 4, 2016, the complaint followed an investigation by the department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration’sWhistleblower Protection Program in which OSHA determined that employees who reported hazards from chemical exposure at the company’s Selma plant suffered multiple forms of retaliation in violation of Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

The joint motion explains that, as part of a comprehensive settlement with multiple parties, the company agreed to do the following, among other provisions:

  • Dismiss a lawsuit it had filed against an employee who had complained about health conditions at the plant, and whom the company had fired. Lear will also reinstate that employee to her former position. In the settlement, the company noted “it has made substantial upgrades at the Selma plant to the health and safety conditions in work facility spaces where employees are exposed to chemicals used in the foam-making process.”
  • Purge the disciplinary actions from the personnel files of employees who had complained about the hazards.
  • Compensate certain employees who had been suspended for the work time lost due to their suspensions.
  • Post the OSHA Job Safety and Health poster and OSHA’s Fact Sheet: “Your Rights as a Whistleblower” in a conspicuous location in the workplace. The company will also provide a copy of the whistleblower rights fact sheet to all newly hired employees at its Selma facility for a period of three years.
  • Allow OSHA to provide annual training regarding protected rights under the Occupational Safety and Health Act to all workers at the Selma plant for a period of three years.

“Our hope is that this case sends a clear message to employers that OSHA will use any and all methods at our disposal to protect workers’ right to raise safety complaints.” said Kurt Petermeyer, OSHA’s regional administrator in Atlanta. “Every worker should feel comfortable raising concerns about work place hazards to their employer without the fear of retaliation. We are confident that the resolution of this case will help to facilitate a strong safety culture within this facility.”

“One of the department’s highest priorities is to protect the voices of workers who speak up about hazards at their workplaces, said Stanley E. Keen, regional solicitor in the department’s Atlanta office which litigated the case. “We will move swiftly to address instances of retaliation, as we did here. In this case, we obtained the first preliminary injunction ever sought under OSHA’s whistleblower provisions. The resolution of this case reflects significant improvements for employees at this employer’s facility.”

OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the OSH Act and 21 other statutes, protecting employees who report violations of various securities, financial services, trucking, airline, nuclear power, pipeline, environmental, rail, maritime, health care, food safety, motor vehicle safety, workplace safety and health regulations, and consumer product safety laws.

Employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who raise various protected concerns or provide protected information to the employer or to the government. Employees who believe that they have been retaliated against for engaging in protected conduct may file a complaint with the secretary of labor to request an investigation by OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program. Detailed information on employee whistleblower rights, including fact sheets, is available at http://www.whistleblowers.gov.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. 

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