In a press release issued last week, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced that Anchorage, Alaska- based North Star Behavioral Health System has been ordered to reinstate and pay over $250,000 to an employee who was terminated in retaliation for reporting safety concerns regarding the facility’s water supply.
An investigation conducted by OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program found that the company violated the whistleblower provision of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) when it terminated an employee after he reported concerns about safe drinking water and a lack of appropriate licensing by a North Star manager who held certain regulatory responsibilities regarding the facility’s drinking water system. Following the employee’s complaint to state agencies, North Star not only ordered him to refrain from future contact with regulatory agencies but terminated him for allegedly sabotaging the facility’s water supply, allegations which OSHA determined by to be unsubstantiated.
In addition to reinstating the whistleblower, OSHA ordered that North Star must pay him nearly $60,000 in back wages, $75,000 in emotional distress damages, $100,000 in punitive damages, $2,018 in compensatory damages, and approximately $35,600 in attorney fees. Finally, North Star must post OSHA’s whistleblower protection fact sheet at its Anchorage facility.
The Employment Law Group® law firm has an extensive nationwide whistleblower practice representing employees who have been victims of retaliation.