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OSHA Sues Whole Foods for Terminating Whistleblower

Last week, the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sued retail food store chain Whole Foods Market for terminating marketing specialist Bridget Hobart in November 2009 because she had reported health concerns to OSHA after a sewer line ruptured in the Whole Foods store in Miami Beach.  The lawsuit follows an OSHA investigation which found that Whole Foods violated the whistleblower protection provisions of Section 11 (c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act for terminating Hobart.

After a sewage line ruptured on November 1, 2009, Hobart alerted her supervisor that the sewage was spilling into the workplace, including store restrooms and the specialty cheese department. Hobart alleges that despite her report to her supervisor and the company’s anonymous tip line, no corrective actions were taken. On November 5, Hobart voiced her concerns to another manager and was subsequently fired “for allegedly making false and malicious statements,” according to OSHA.

OSHA is asking that the federal government issue an order against Whole Foods that includes a permanent injunction in order to prevent future violations of whistleblower protections. OSHA is also asking that Whole Foods reinstate Hobart with full benefits and provide her with back pay as well as punitive and compensatory damages.

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