No California employee should ever have to choose between his or her health and livelihood. In fact, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration was created to enforce workplace health and safety standards, to ensure employees are protected on the job. When employees are worried about their personal well-being, it is illegal for a company to dismiss that worker in retaliation for raising health or safety concerns and communicating with OSHA.
A lawsuit in another state apparently involves just such a situation. According to an OSHA suit, a worker at a popcorn factory named Palo Foods Inc. was wrongfully terminated. It started when the employee began suffering from headaches and nosebleeds and grew concerned that her symptoms were being caused by one or more of the ingredients in a dill-pickle popcorn flavoring she frequently came into contact with as part of her work duties.
However, when she asked for a copy of the ingredient information, she was allegedly told that, while she could have the chemical safety data to read, she was not allowed to take a copy home. The woman repeatedly requested her own copy of the information but was continually denied, according to reports. In May 2013, after the woman informed a supervisor that her husband had contacted OSHA in regard to the situation, she was subsequently fired.
OSHA’s lawsuit against Palo Foods seeks compensation for the employee’s wrongful termination, and is asking that the company be required to reimburse her lost wages, pain and suffering and any other financial losses. The suit also requests that the record of her termination be removed from personnel files, and asks that she either be reinstated or receive front pay. Frequently, such whistleblower retaliation or wrongful termination cases are filed only after attempts to reach a settlement are unsuccessful, but Palo Foods declined to discuss the details of this case. Regardless, California workers should be aware of their legal rights in these types of circumstances, and anyone who has suffered a similar ordeal might benefit from discussing his or her situation with an attorney experienced in employment law.
Source: bna.com, “Popcorn Worker’s Safety Focus of OSHA Whistle-Blower Lawsuit“, Bruce Rolfsen, April 13, 2017