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Florida marine firm sued for violating employee rights

Whistleblowers are protected by state and federal statutes. Whistleblowers are generally thought of as individuals who report unethical behavior, but people who report safety violations are also owed certain employee rights. A firm in Florida has come under fire for terminating one of its workers because that person complained about unsafe working conditions, along with other employer violations. The employee is seeking compensation for back wages with interest, along with compensatory and punitive damages in connection with the case.

Officials report that the employee had complained to a work supervisor at Duane Thomas Marine Construction because the man was making inappropriate sexual comments, physically threatening employees and creating a hostile work environment. The employee’s paycheck was withheld because the supervisor wanted to seek vengeance for the complaints, according to information in courtroom documents.

The employee was subjected to the alleged abuse for nearly two years, with the incidents occurring between 2009 and 2011. The employee reported the abuse in February 2011, and the supervisor was notified of the complaint in mid-March. The employee was terminated less than a week later, when he found that his remote-access computer passwords had been changed without his knowledge or consent.

Workplace violence is considered a safety concern under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, according to government officials. As a result, OSHA became involved in the whistleblower protection in this case. OSHA administrators say that all employees have the right to raise concerns about dangerous workplace violence without fear of losing their jobs.

Employees who have been discriminated against for reporting unacceptable conduct should consider hiring legal advisers. They should also report the incidents to government agencies, including OSHA. You may be entitled to financial compensation and reinstatement into your previous position at work. Your employer may face significant fines and penalties from the government, along with additional oversight to prevent similar problems for other workers in the future.

Source: OSHA, “US Department of Labor sues Duane Thomas Marine Construction in Florida for firing employee who reported workplace violence,” Michael D’Aquino, Feb. 6, 2013