The U.S. Department of Labor has reached a $45,000 settlement agreement with Westfield, Mass.-based U.S. Navy contractor NWS Corp. after finding that the company wrongfully terminated an employee working at San Diego, Calif.-area naval installations.
An investigation by the department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration determined that the employee was terminated for filing a safety complaint with the state OSHA program, Cal/OSHA. The employee previously had complained to NWS management for being required to climb microwave towers, work in manholes and enter asbestos-filled buildings without safety training or equipment while working at several San Diego military installations, including the Naval Amphibious Base at Coronado, the Naval Air Station at North Island and the Naval Air Station OLF at Imperial Beach.
NWS was under contract to perform installation, construction and maintenance of cable and Internet systems for the Navy.
On the company’s website, an "About Us" section describes the business as a designer and integrator of broadband communications services for clients including corporations, commercial property owners, educational institutions, health care facilities, and hospitality businesses.
According to the website, the company was incorporated in 1984 and began working Navy contacts in California in 2007.
"We will vigorously pursue employers who attempt to stifle workers’ voices," said Ken Atha, OSHA’s regional administrator in San Francisco. "NWS Corp. made a serious mistake by taking action against a worker who complained about unsafe working conditions and by failing to make
restitution following OSHA’s findings."
The Labor Department’s Office of the Solicitor filed a suit on behalf of the secretary of labor in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California on June 7, 2010, after NWS Corp. refused to reinstate the worker to the same or an equivalent position, and refused to pay back wages and other employment benefits.
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, and 20 additional statutes protecting employees who report violations of various securities laws; trucking, airline, nuclear, pipeline, environmental, rail, and workplace safety and health regulations; and consumer product and food safety laws.
Under the various whistleblower provisions enacted by Congress, 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 for an investigation by OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program.