Whistleblowers Protected When Reporting Hazards at North Carolina Job Sites

North Carolina workers are often afraid to voice concerns about a potential work injury or environmental hazard on the job because they fear retaliation for blowing the whistle. Our Asheville workers’ compensation attorneys want to assure you that it is against the law for employers to behave in such a manner and that the company can be prosecuted to the full extent of the law if retaliation leads to workers suffering in any way, shape or form.

The United States Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently announced a lawsuit against a South Carolina real estate management company for retaliation against an employed whistleblower for reporting an environmental concern at one of the company’s job sites.
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The inhalation of asbestos fibers by workers is a common cause of illness at North Carolina worksites. Asbestos can be hazardous, according to OSHA, because the fibers, which are naturally breathed in, can cause serious disease or damage to lungs and other organs that may not be detected until years later. Build-up of scar-like tissue created by asbestos in the lungs can result in loss of lung function, which can lead to disability or even fatality if it goes undetected over time.

OSHA is suing CMM Realty Inc. of South Carolina for allegedly firing an employee after the employee reported a workplace and environmental concern regarding asbestos. The lawsuit includes back pay, interest and compensatory damages, reinstatement of his previous position at the company, as well as prohibition of future violations.

The employee voiced concerns about asbestos exposure to the owner of CMM Realty on May 13, 2009. The following day, the employee filed a complaint with South Carolina OSHA and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Conservations. After each agency inspected the company, CMM Realty was cited for violating asbestos control standards. The day of the inspections, the concerned employee was told his services were no longer needed. On May 18, 2009, he was given official notice that he was fired from the company.

The following month, the employee went to OSHA to file a whistleblower complaint. Upon investigation, OSHA found that CMM Realty illegally fired the employee for reporting the asbestos concerns and possible exposure to a hazardous environment. In November, OSHA ordered CMM Realty to pay the employee $56,222 in compensatory damages and back pay, and reinstate the employee in his old job under the whistleblower provisions of the Clean Air Act. The realty company appealed and is currently waiting for review. In the meantime, OSHA has filed the current lawsuit with the federal court for violation of Section 11(c) of the OSH Act, which forbids companies to act out against employees who have filed a complaint with OSHA.

“We at OSHA are very serious about protecting America’s workforce and ensuring that employees have a voice about the safety of their work environment,” said Cindy A. Coe, OSHA’s regional administrator in Atlanta. “Employers found in violation of the whistleblower protection provisions of the OSH Act, Clean Air Act or any of the whistleblower laws we enforce will be held accountable and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

The Lee Law Offices, P.A represent victims in North or South Carolina who have been experienced work illness or injury. If you need to file a claim, or get advice about what course of action is needed to get compensation for your injuries, call for a free and confidential appointment at 1-800-887-1965.

More Blog Entries:
Heat-related illnesses sustained on the job a concern to workers in Greensboro, North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Blog, May 12, 2011

Responding to Retaliation for Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim in North Carolina, North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Blog, May 21, 2010

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