GEORGETOWN, DE – The U.S. Department of Labor has reached a settlement agreement with a Delaware salvage yard company and its owner after a federal whistleblower investigation found the company fired a smelter operator for reporting safety concerns.

“Employers who retaliate against workers who raise safety concerns create a potentially dangerous work environment and a chilling effect that discourages others from voicing their concerns,” said OSHA Regional Administrator Michael Rivera in Philadelphia. “No employee should fear retaliation or termination by an employer for freely exercising rights protected under the law.”

Donovan Salvage Works agreed to pay $40,000 in back wages and damages after the department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration determined the Georgetown company wrongly terminated the employee after he alerted his supervisor about a smelter leaking propane. The employee alleged the supervisor ignored his concerns and directed him to keep working. When the smelter operator refused, the supervisor agreed to call technicians to address the issue, but directed the employee to go home and told him he would not be paid for the remainder of the day. Technicians later found and repaired the leak.

The employee later contacted OSHA to report the leak. After OSHA investigators contacted the yard regarding the reported safety hazard, the owner of the company concluded that the employee had called OSHA and decided to fire him in retaliation. 

In addition to paying the $40,000, the company agreed to remove references to protected activity and negative actions from the employee’s personnel file, provide a neutral job reference, post OSHA whistleblower postings at the worksite and provide whistleblower training to all employees. 

“This settlement goes a long way in making the terminated employee whole and sends a clear and strong message from the U.S. Department of Labor to employers that worker safety must always be their first concern,” said Deputy Regional Solicitor Samantha Thomas in Philadelphia. “When employees exercise their right to report unsafe workplace conditions and face any form of retaliation, we will pursue all legal remedies to ensure employees are made whole and employers do not engage in similar conduct in the future.”

The settlement follows a safety and health case investigated by OSHA, which resulted in the agency issuing 13 serious citations and $81,255 in proposed penalties to the company.

Learn more about OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Programs.

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