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April 01, 2024
Mortgage executive, managers ordered to pay whistleblowers

A senior vice president and two managers at PrimeLending, a national mortgage lender, were ordered to pay $35,000 in emotional damages and legal fees to two company whistleblowers, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced March 27.

OSHA investigators found that the nationwide lender violated whistleblower provisions of the Consumer Financial Protection Act (CFPA) by terminating employees who raised concerns with a regional manager and senior vice president of HR.

In addition to an order to pay personal damages, the agency ordered PrimeLending to pay an undisclosed amount in lost back wages and interest to the employees. The company also must expunge the employment records of both employees, post an antiretaliation notice at all its branches, and train its employees on their rights under the CFPA.

OSHA determined that two California employees of PrimeLending were illegally fired after reporting that a branch manager pressured them to pass on fees to loan applicants as a result of delays in the company’s internal processing.

While OSHA’s whistleblower protection authority was established in the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 to protect workers who lodge workplace safety or health complaints or cooperate with agency investigations of violations, OSHA is now responsible for investigating whistleblower complaints under more than 20 federal statutes.

“Employees who report potential consumer fraud are protected by federal law against retaliation of any kind. Under the Consumer Financial Protection Act’s whistleblower provisions, managers can be fined personally for retaliation,” OSHA’s Region 9 Administrator James D. Wulff said in an agency statement. “In this case, OSHA fined three PrimeLending managers for trying to prevent workers’ concerns from coming to light. The U.S. Department of Labor will not tolerate retaliatory actions against workers exercising their rights and those responsible for such actions will be held accountable.”

According to OSHA, PrimeLending is a Dallas-based national mortgage lender and wholly owned subsidiary of PlainsCapital Bank and is a subsidiary of Hilltop Holdings Inc.

Emergency response proposal deadline extended

On March 28, OSHA extended the deadline for comments on the agency’s February 5 proposal for an emergency response standard (89 Fed. Reg. 21468). Comments on the notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) are now due June 21.

The proposed emergency response standard would replace the agency’s nearly 44-year-old fire brigades standard.

Fire brigades are contractor or employee industrial fire departments. A new emergency response standard would cover a wider range of private sector emergency responders, including firefighters, emergency medical service providers, and technical search and rescuers.

Emergency response has been covered by a patchwork of hazard-specific standards, none of which was intended as a comprehensive emergency response standard. The agency acknowledged the need to establish a standard that would address the full range of hazards emergency responders encounter and reflect changes in performance specifications for protective clothing and equipment and improvements in safety and health practices incorporated into industry consensus standards.

OSHA’s proposal would establish a standard in line with the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) National Response Framework and align the agency’s standard with current industry consensus standards for safely conducting emergency response activities issued by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

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