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May 24, 2024
Postal Service ordered to pay whistleblower damages

A federal judge has ordered the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) to pay $141,307 in lost wages and damages to a probationary mail carrier who was fired after reporting an on-the-job injury to a supervisor and filing an accident report, the Department of Labor’s (DOL) Office of the Solicitor announced May 22.

The judgment follows an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) investigation into retaliation and litigation filed by the solicitor’s office when an administrative settlement couldn’t be reached.

Judge Adrienne Nelson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon found that the USPS discriminated against and wrongfully terminated the employee 21 days after the worker reported suffering a leg injury while unloading mail from a USPS truck near the end of the worker’s shift.

The solicitor’s office has filed nine federal lawsuits since 2020 to protect USPS probationary employees who were similarly fired after reporting injuries in California, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Washington. Since 2020, OSHA has resolved related investigations in California, Florida, Illinois, and New Jersey, and three similar cases against the USPS are awaiting trial in Washington state.

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

The solicitor’s office provides legal services in federal court for OSHA, the secretary of labor, and other DOL agencies, including the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) and Wage and Hour Division (WHD).

Illinois roofer pays OSHA penalties after DOL move to seize property

After the DOL moved to seize an employer’s assets as part of OSHA’s debt collection program, a Waukegan roofing contractor paid $365,576 in fines and interest, the solicitor’s office announced May 21.

Joshua Herion had routinely endangered employees by ignoring federal workplace standards and penalties assessed for its violations since 2014, according to the solicitor’s office. The department’s move to seize the employer’s assets follows a January 2024 federal court’s default order to pay the outstanding penalties, attorneys’ fees, and interest for repeatedly exposing employees to falls from elevations in 2022.

Using the judgment by District Judge Elaine E. Bucklo, the department filed liens on Herion’s real property in Illinois in March 2024 and filed a motion to compel responses to its asset discovery on May 6, 2024, to get information on other collectible assets.

“The Department of Labor took unprecedented action to force Joshua Herion and his company, ECS Roofing Professionals Inc., to respond to a federal court and pay more than $360,000 in penalties for putting his workers lives and well-being in danger repeatedly,” Chicago Regional Solicitor of Labor Christine Heri said in a department statement.

“Herion exhausted his rightful appeals process and even after the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission and the courts upheld the OSHA penalties, he refused to comply until his personal property was jeopardized.”

Fall hazards are one of the construction industry’s “Fatal Four” safety hazards, along with caught-in or -between, electrocution, and struck-by hazards. OSHA’s construction industry fall protection standard has been the agency’s most frequently cited standard for 13 straight years, the agency announced last fall. OSHA cited 7,271 violations in fiscal year (FY) 2023.

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