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OSHA whistleblower receives $820,000 settlement in job dispute

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OHSA) is responsible for enforcing many of the nation's laws governing workplace safety. One of their duties involves the collection of workplace injury reports from industry. A man who was responsible for that department at OSHA was fired for disruptive workplace behavior in 2007. He was a 25-year veteran of the agency, and had been known for his outspoken criticism of the agency's failure to adequately deal with the underreporting of injuries.

His firing had been upheld by the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), and his case settled after the Federal Circuit reversed the MSPB, criticizing the board for "arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion or otherwise not in accordance with law." They found that the MSPB had ignored evidence in support of the whistleblower, and excluded "considerable countervailing evidence."

The settlement awarded him $820,000 to end his legal challenge of his 2009 termination, and as a condition of the settlement, it forbids him from applying for any jobs with the Department of Labor for 15 years. At that time, he would be 81, so it is unlikely they will have to worry that he will reapply.

His situation became a classic case of retaliation by the agency, after it was embarrassed by his allegations, the Federal Circuit found the agency plotted to "get" Whitmore and engaged in "a trumped-up investigation used to justify his removal." Sadly, while this is a victory for Whitmore, the failures he alleged at OSHA appear to remain unaddressed, and the safety of workers across the country remains compromised.

If you find yourself in a position like this, you should immediately contact an attorney experienced with federal workplace cases. These cases are always complex and gathering the detailed evidence necessary to success is important. They can advise you of the types of information and documentation you need for your case.

Source: Washington Post, "Former worker wins big DOL settlement," Joe Davidson, June 6, 2013

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