U.S. Department of Labor Files OSHA Whistleblower Suit in New York Federal Court

OSHA is responsible for enforcing the whistleblower provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and twenty-one other statutes which are designed to protect employees who report violations of various laws in a broad variety of areas. Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the U.S. Department of Labor is authorized to file suit against employers who retaliate against whistleblower employees.

The U.S. Department of Labor has recently commenced such a whistleblower action in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York against a New York hair salon and its owner (Perez v. 492 & 494 West 238 St. Haircutters Inc., doing business as Salon Zoë, and Kristina Veljovic; Civil Action No. 15-cv-1358).

The suit alleges that an employee of the salon was fired after she warned fellow employees about the dangers of formaldehyde in products used at the salon, and that the whistleblower suffered respiratory problems from exposure to formaldehyde. The whistleblower suit seeks lost wages, compensatory, punitive and emotional distress damages, an offer of reinstatement with full benefits and seniority, removal of references to the matter from the worker’s employment records, and an order prohibiting the defendants from illegally retaliating against employees in the future.

Although the merits of this case have not yet been addressed, this new whistleblower suit highlights the importance for employers to properly address any employee complaints about unsafe or unhealthy working conditions or environment problems. Detailed information on employee whistleblower rights and employer responsibilities can be found here.


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