A Philadelphia Electrical Company will pay a total of $150,000 in benefits and lost wages to workers who claim they were laid off in retaliation for brining attention to a dangerous work environment.
The electricians were union members working for Hyde Electric working at Martin Luther King High School to replace the fire alarm system in 2008. While Hyde Electric is paying the $150,000 settlement, the company disagrees with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s ruling for the workers.
OSHA has determined, and the workers insist, that they were let go because of their whistle-blower status. However, Ken Funk, Hyde’s Vice President argued “they were actually laid off for lack of work.” In a bit of circular logic, Funk claims the “lack of work” arose because of a work stoppage emerging from a separate dispute with the school on how to work on an auditorium ceiling where asbestos was present.
Further, Funk claims that he ultimately disagreed with the school’s plan to remove the asbestos because it wasn’t safe enough for the workers.
One term of the settlement forces Hyde to disseminate information on whistle-blower rights.
According to www.whistleblowers.gov, the key to protecting a worker’s right to report unsafe or illegal practices is to identify when exercising these rights lead to retaliation. OSHA emphasizes that the employer must subject the employee to an adverse action and that “the protected activity motivated or contributed to the adverse action.”
Adverse actions may include:
▪ Firing or laying off
▪ Denying overtime or promotion
▪ Denial of benefits
▪ Failure to hire or rehire
▪ Making threats
▪ Reassignment affecting prospects for promotion
▪ Reducing pay or hours
If you are a worker who is suspects they are being forced to labor in unsafe or illegal circumstances, it is important that you understand your rights to blow the whistle. An experienced Washington Labor & Industries Attorney is standing by to advise you. If you have been injured on the job, a Washington Workers Compensation Lawyer at Emery Reddy will be your advocate as you move through the claims process.