Wrongful termination results in record punitive award

On Behalf of | Nov 20, 2019 | Employment law

Employers in Pennsylvania must provide their workers with a safe environment. If the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is inspecting a potential violation, it is illegal for a company to terminate employees who assist in the investigation.

The U.S. Department of Labor reports that a federal jury recently found a Pennsylvania company did retaliate against two employees through wrongful termination after they participated in an OSHA safety inspection.

According to The Reporter, the Department of Labor’s lawsuit resulted in an order for the manufacturing company to pay the two employees more than $1 million in damages and wages. The first worker was terminated immediately after suffering a crush injury that resulted in the amputation of three fingers. The worker believed that the injury occurred because of the lack of a safety guard on the machine, and filed a complaint with OSHA.

A second employee, a manager, was terminated after he provided the first worker with pictures of the machine which caused the injury to give to OSHA in the course of the investigation.

The investigation led to more than $800,000 in fines against the company, primarily due to a lack of machine guards.

In court, the company alleged that the worker’s termination was due to his falling asleep in his vehicle while working, and the manager was terminated because he failed to properly perform his job duties. However, the jury disagreed, and the judge awarded the terminated employees nearly $550,000 in wages and back pay, as well as interest and compensation to cover the tax consequences of the judgment.

The court also awarded record punitive damages of $500,000 because the jury believed the company deliberately defied the law.