DENTON, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) - The Department of Labor is alleging that a worker at the truck manufacturer Peterbilt Motor Co. was fired after voicing concerns about exposure to COVID-19.
In a statement released on November 17, the US Department of Labor announced that its Office of the Solicitor had filed suit against PACCAR Inc, doing business under the name Peterbilt Motor Co., in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.
According to the lawsuit, a worker at the Denton facility expressed concerns about exposure to the virus in March 2020 as COVID-19 began to spread in the US.
A company representative told the employee that the company planned to clean work spaces and continue work as usual.
However, the worker had doubts about Peterbilt's response and publicly voiced their concerns about the response and employee safety. In response, the company fired the employee.
In a subsequent investigation, Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) found that the employee was engaged in protected activity by raising workplace safety concerns and that Peterbilt's retaliation violated federal whistleblower protections.
The Department of Labor's lawsuit asks the court to order the company to comply with anti-retaliation provisions in the Occupational Safety and Health Act, reinstate the employee to his former employment position with the company, pay the employee back wages, interest, compensatory and punitive damages and other remedies; and expunge the employee's personnel record.
"Our investigation found that Peterbilt terminated a worker for reporting their concerns that the company's response to the dangers of the coronavirus would not prevent its spread," said Regional OSHA Administrator Eric S. Harbin in Dallas. "Every worker has the right to report safety concerns of any kind without fear of retaliation."
"The US Department of Labor will hold employers accountable when they retaliate against workers who raise safety concerns for themselves and their co-workers," said Regional Solicitor of Labor John Rainwater in Dallas. "At the same time, the department will work vigorously to ensure a worker's legal right to a safe and healthy workplace is protected as the law provides."
The lawsuit follows the November 10 launch of a campaign aimed at tackling workplace retaliation.
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