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OSHA sues Florida school for violating whistleblower laws

Employees in Florida who identify safety and health concerns in the workplace are protected by whistleblower protection laws. This means that an employee in Florida cannot be fired or treated unfairly due to bringing up a safety complaint. The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational and Health Administration recently sued a school in Manatee County, Florida, after learning of a whistleblower violation.

OSHA alleges that the privately-run charter school terminated a worker's employment after he voiced concerns about safety hazards in the school's two theaters. According to news reports, the employee addressed the hazards in a letter to his boss, noting that improperly placed extension cords and a lack of sprinkler systems were dangerous.

The supervisor did not respond to the employee's letter, and about one month later the employee filed a complaint with OSHA to report the safety concerns. After OSHA contacted the school and a dispute ensued, the employee was told his position was being terminated. Days later, OSHA completed a safety inspection and the school was cited for multiple safety violations, including those in the employee's complaint.

The Labor Department's suit requests a reinstatement of the former employee; full benefits for the employee; back pay of wages; punitive and compensatory damages; and removal of any references of the issue from the employee's file. OSHA also seeks a permanent injunction against the school in order to prevent any future violations of whistleblower protections.

Those in Florida who feel they have been wrongfully terminated or retaliated against due to whistleblower issues have the right to seek legal recourse.

Source: WTSP.com, "OSHA sues Manatee School for the Arts for violating whistleblower protection provisions," Noah Pransky, March 12, 2012

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