BRIDGETON, MO – After a production operator at a carbon fiber manufacturer brought various safety concerns to management, he approached a third-party auditor reviewing operations at the company’s St. Peters facility with his concerns. The next day, his employer suspended him.
The worker then filed a safety complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Fourteen days after the suspension, his employer terminated him.
OSHA investigated the worker’s allegation that his employer, Zoltek Corp. fired him in April 2019 in retaliation for reporting unsafe working conditions. On March 9, 2021, OSHA filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, Eastern Division, alleging the company violated the whistleblower statutes when it terminated his employment.
The complaint seeks back wages, reinstatement and damages for the employee, and an order requiring Zoltek Corp. to post a notice regarding employees’ rights to report unsafe working conditions without fear of retaliation.
“Commitment to workplace safety should be commended – not punished,” said OSHA’s Regional Administrator Kimberly Stille in Kansas City, Missouri. “OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program guarantees employees the right to speak out when they believe their safety and health is in jeopardy.”
Based in Bridgeton, Zoltek Corp. is a global manufacturer with locations in Utah, Mexico and Hungary. The company disputes the department’s allegations.
OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program enforces the whistleblower provisions of Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety & Health Act and more than 20 whistleblower statutes. These statutes protect employees from retaliation for reporting violations of workplace safety and health, airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, health insurance reform, motor vehicle safety, nuclear, pipeline, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime, securities and tax laws; as well as for engaging in other related protected activities. Learn more about whistleblower protections.
Editor’s note: The U.S. Department of Labor does not release the names of employees involved in whistleblower complaints.
US Department of Labor v. Zoltek Corp.
Civil Action Number: 4:21-cv-295