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Worker receives award after whistleblowing on safety issues

One Illinois whistleblower who voiced his concerns about safety and got fired from the Polar Service Centers facility in Lansing was recently awarded $190,547 in damages and back wages.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued the order after the federal investigation concluded and it was determined that the company was in violation of provisions covering whistleblowers in the Surface Transportation Assistance Act.

According to OSHA, the company censured, demoted and wound up forcing the facility's safety manager to resign. The man had reported his suspicions that a Polar customer had been improperly certifying hazardous waste trailers, which was a potentially dangerous safety violation.

The regional administrator of OSHA's Chicago office stated, "Censuring a worker for complying with the law clearly violates the whistleblower provisions of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act, [which] is designed to protect the safety of the motoring public."

In Sept. of 2013, the service manager was later indefinitely suspended from the Polar Service Centers. Later, he was demoted and barred from speaking to the Department of Transportation or customers for reporting potential safety violations. In addition to reporting improper certification of hazardous waste haulers, the employee also requested that one driver for Polar's customer give information to the DOT about the potential safety violation. The manager later was forced into resigning from the company.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration ordered that Polar Service Centers reinstate the man to his former position and pay him back wages of $88,847 less the applicable employment taxes. In addition, OSHA enhanced his award with compensatory damages of $1,700, reasonable attorney's fees and $100,000 in punitive damages.

The parties each have 30 days to file any objections or request hearings before the administrative law judge.

Reporting safety violations is an important part of the checks and balances that can prevent fatalities in the workplace and subsequent wrongful death actions.

Source: Insurance Journal, "Whistleblower Lawsuit Leads to $190.5K Penalty for Illinois Employer," May 20, 2016

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