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Whistleblower who reported asbestos violations awarded damages

whistleblower900.jpegEarlier this month, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York released a judgment that awarded an asbestos whistleblower damages for "unlawful retaliation" by his former employer. The lawsuit was based on the worker's allegation that his employer, an Albany demolition company fired, threatened and sued him for having reported to the employer that improper asbestos removal procedures were being used in a high school gym renovation project in Gloversville, New York, reported The Daily Gazette.

The employer denied the allegations.

What is a whistleblower?

A whistleblower is someone who reports illegal or immoral activity engaged in by his or her employer to management or to the government, after which the employer retaliates against the reporting employee by taking negative action against him or her such as termination. There are a myriad of federal and state laws that protect whistleblowers against this kind of employer retaliation. Whistleblowers may make allegations of unlawful employer violation of environmental or work-safety laws, among other types.

OSHA's role

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which is the federal agency responsible for workplace safety known as OSHA, accepts whistleblower complaints from employees facing this kind of retaliation. After investigation, OSHA may bring a lawsuit on behalf of the whistleblower against the employer, if the facts support illegal acts against the employee because of his or her whistleblowing.

This was the basis of the Gloversville whistleblower case, brought by OSHA against the demolition company and its owner. The jury and judge awarded the following damages to the fired whistleblower:

  • Almost $104,000 for back pay
  • $20,000 in compensatory damages
  • $50,000 in punitive damages, which are meant to punish the defendant and to set an example to deter others from that behavior

Seek legal advice

Anyone retaliated against for reporting illegal practices to an employer or to the government should talk to a whistleblower attorney about potential legal remedies.

Here at Brayton Purcell LLP, we represent whistleblowers as well as workers who have been wrongly exposed to asbestos because of illegal practices by their employers.

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