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Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980

Also known as: CERCLA; Superfund

Ronald Reagan

Signed into law by Ronald Reagan
December 11, 1980

In response to the nation’s increasing awareness of the risks associated with hazardous waste sites and, specifically, the “Love Canal Disaster” in Niagara Falls, New York, Congress enacted the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980, better known as “CERCLA” or “Superfund,” in order to compel the cleanup of hazardous waste disposal areas. In brief, CERCLA requires companies to take steps to clean up sites that the government has deemed dangerous to public health. Recognizing the importance of individual citizens to the government’s enforcement efforts, Congress included a provision that makes it illegal for a company to retaliate or discriminate against an employee who brings violations of CERCLA to the government’s attention.

Enforcement & Remedies

Under CERCLA, employees who suffer illegal workplace retaliation must file a complaint with the Secretary of Labor within only thirty days after the violations have occurred. OSHA will investigate complaints and can order remedies; employees who are unhappy with the result can appeal to an administrative judge at the DOL, with additional levels of review available within the DOL and in the federal courts. Remedies may include reinstatement, back pay, and compensatory damages.

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