NEW YORK — The U.S. Department of Labor has obtained a consent judgment ordering Party Rental Enterprises Inc. of Auburn, N.Y., doing business as Able Linen Service, and Daryle Logudice, the company’s chief executive officer, to compensate an employee who was fired for filing a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) about potentially unsafe conditions at the laundry.
The judgment, signed Jan. 26, 2009, by Chief Judge Norman A. Mordue of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York, requires that Logudice and the laundry pay the former employee $20,000 in back wages plus $17,000 in punitive damages, and expunge any references to suspension and discharge from the employee’s personnel file.
The defendants are also permanently enjoined from violating the whistleblower provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, and from discharging or discriminating against employees who file complaints with OSHA, cooperate with OSHA investigations, or exercise their workplace safety and health rights.
In addition, an OSHA whistleblower poster must be posted at company locations in Auburn, Cicero and Liverpool, N.Y., and the OSHA whistleblower fact sheet will be provided to current employees and new hires to ensure they are aware of their rights.
According to the New York regional offices of OSHA, the employee filed a whistleblower complaint with OSHA in 2005. OSHA found merit to the complaint and ordered the employee’s reinstatement and payment of accrued wages and benefits.
However, the company and its owner didn’t respond to the investigation, the order, administrative subpoenas, summonses and other subsequent legal actions until after the Department of Labor secured a default judgment from the court in August 2008.
“Ignoring the law is no refuge from being subject to it,” says Robert Kulick, OSHA’s regional administrator in New York. “This employer’s ongoing recalcitrance delayed, but did not derail, our efforts on behalf of the employee. We will not hesitate to pursue all appropriate legal remedies to protect employees’ rights to contact OSHA with their safety and health concerns.”
Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act protects employees’ rights to file a complaint with OSHA or bring safety and health issues to the attention of their employers without fear of termination or other reprisal.
More information about the whistleblower provisions of this and other statutes is available on OSHA’s website at www.osha.gov/dep/oia/whistleblower/index.html.