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OSHA Sues Packaging Manufacturer for Whistleblower Violations

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The U.S Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is suing RockTenn Corporation, a consumer packaging manufacturer based in Norcross, Georgia for allegedly violating whistleblower protection laws at its Fernandina Beach plant.  The lawsuit alleges that an employee at the plant had repeatedly raised serious and credible safety concerns with managers, and that those managers ignored the employee’s concerns.

On June 1, 2009 the employee called the local OSHA office and relayed his continued safety concerns regarding plant operations.  RockTenn suspended the employee on June 18 and then terminated him on June 23 for allegedly giving inaccurate and untruthful testimony during an internal investigation. OSHA concluded that the company had unlawfully and intentionally terminated the worker’s employment for engaging in activity protected by the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

Teresa Harrison, OSHA’s acting regional Administrator in Atlanta stated:

“Employees have the congressionally-mandated right to engage in safety-related matters at their workplace, including participating in accident investigations and contacting OSHA at any time.  We will hold employers accountable for limiting or deterring any employee who exercises these rights.”

The lawsuit asks the court to order remedies that include reinstating the employee; paying back wages and benefits; paying punitive and compensatory damages; and expunging the employee’s personnel records with respect to the matters at issue in the case.  The suit also requests a permanent injunction against future violations of this law by the employer.

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