LANSING, MI – After an account manager continually expressed concerns and objections about a proposed accounting practice they believed to be illegal, Equistar Chemicals L.P. in Lansing placed the account manager on a performance improvement program and, ultimately, fired them.
A U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration whistleblower investigation determined the account manager’s placement on the performance improvement plan and dismissal by Equistar – a subsidiary of LyondellBasell – was in retaliation for their protected activities under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, a federal law that protects investors from fraudulent financial reporting by corporations.
In addition to its findings, OSHA has ordered LyondellBasell to reinstate the account manager and pay $518,189 in lost wages and $145,293 in lost benefits. OSHA also ordered the employer to pay an estimated $50,962 in interest on the back wages, $50,000 in compensatory damages and applicable attorney’s fees. LyondellBasell must also expunge the account manager’s personnel record of any adverse information related to the whistleblower complaint.
“We commend this worker for bravely exercising their rights and reporting workplace misconduct,” said OSHA Acting Regional Administrator William Donovan in Chicago. “This employee’s concerns were protected by federal laws and well-known by management who took illegal actions by retaliating against them.”
Based in the Netherlands with U.S. headquarters in Houston, LyondellBasell is one of the world’s largest plastics, chemicals and refining companies. The company is publicly traded and a covered entity under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.
OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program enforces the whistleblower provisions of the Sarbanes-Oxley 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.