Labor sues Postal Service over whistleblower mistreatment

Ben Margot/AP

The Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has filed suit against the U.S. Postal Service, OSHA confirmed Wednesday.

According to OSHA, the Postal Service specifically violated Section 11(c) of the 1970 Occupational Safety and Health Act, when a safety specialist at the Seattle Process and Distribution Center faced discrimination and retaliation after providing information to an employee who wanted to file a safety complaint with OSHA.

After being reprimanded for advising a colleague to file a complaint, the safety specialist was transferred to another office, his work was given to someone with a lower pay-grade and he was blocked from receiving a promotion, according to a press release from OSHA.

The suit, reported Tuesday by the Seattle Weekly, is asking for relief for the safety specialist, including payment of lost wages and benefits and compensation damages for emotional distress.

“An employee’s right to report unsafe and unhealthy workplace conditions must be protected to ensure that workers are not injured or sickened on the job,” Dean Ikeda, OSHA’s regional administrator in Seattle, said in a statement. “Hostility and retaliation against whistleblowers are simply unacceptable.”

Labor also is asking the court to order a permanent injunction against the Postal Service to prevent future violations of the law, as this is OSHA’s second lawsuit against the Seattle processing and distribution center.

Labor sued USPS in July 2009, alleging that an employee was wrongfully discharged after she filed a complaint about unhealthy working conditions. That employee was referred to OSHA by the safety specialist who is the subject of the current lawsuit. According to an OSHA spokeswoman, the 2009 case was withdrawn.

While OSHA cannot sue other federal agencies, Congress amended the Occupational Safety and Health Actin 1998 to make sure USPS was treated as a private employer under the legislation.

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