- An Austin luxury car dealer violated the Occupational Safety and Health Act when it terminated an employee who flagged potential workplace coronavirus hazards to managers and co-workers, the U.S. Department of Labor charged in a lawsuit that it announced Oct. 13.
- The worker asked management to notify employees that they were exposed to COVID-19 after a co-worker tested positive. When management did nothing, the employee emailed all company employees about potential hazards.
- The dealer fired the employee less than an hour later, according to DOL. Following an investigation, the agency's Occupational Safety and Health Administration found that the worker engaged in protected activity, making the termination illegal.
Section 11(c) of the OSH Act prohibits employers from discharging or retaliating against workers who engage in any type of protected activity, as defined by the statute.
"This employee acted out of real concern for their safety and that of their coworkers, and their actions are protected under federal law," said OSHA Regional Solicitor of Labor John Rainwater in a statement. "The law also protects whistleblowers from retaliation by their employer and holds employers accountable when they do."
According to OSHA, protected activity can include: communicating with management about safety and health issues; asking questions or raising concerns about work-related injuries or illnesses; and asking for copies of OSHA standards and regulations.
The agency listed a number of employment actions that it considers to be retaliatory. The list included termination, demotion and discipline, in addition to intimidation, threat-making and reduced pay or benefits.