An Occupational Safety and Health Administration complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts alleges that Tara Construction Inc., Boston, retaliated against an injured employee by facilitating his arrest at the hands of Immigration and Customs Enforcement staff. Reporting an injury to an employer and spurring an OSHA proceeding are protected activities under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the agency contends.
The employee sustained a broken leg when he fell from a ladder on a Tara Construction site. Shortly after the employee reported the incident, OSHA alleges, the contractor initiated a local and federal law enforcement investigation leading to his detainment by ICE. Tara Construction CEO Pedro Pirez arranged for the employee to meet at the office, the complaint asserts, setting the stage for the employee’s arrest after leaving the building. Contradicting a law enforcement account, Pirez informed OSHA that he had no idea how ICE agents knew where the employee would be when he was detained.
An OSHA Whistleblower Protection Program investigation concluded that the defendant’s actions breached OSH Act-protected activity and would dissuade a reasonable worker from reporting an injury. “The Act prohibits retaliation against employees for exercising their workplace rights, regardless of the employees’ immigration status,” says Regional Solicitor of Labor Maia Fisher. “This case demonstrates that through legal action the Department promotes safe workplaces free from unlawful retaliation.”
The agency complaint asks the court to order Tara Construction to a) comply with the OSH Act’s anti-retaliation provisions, and pay the employee back wages, interest, plus compensatory and punitive damages; and, b) provide a neutral letter of reference, expunge from its files any information regarding the adverse action against the employee, and notify staff of whistleblower rights under the OSH Act.
FORKLIFT SAFETY STANDARD
Ahead of a prospective rulemaking to revise standards nearing their 50-year mark, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is requesting information on the types, age, and usage of powered industrial trucks; vehicle maintenance and retrofitting; how to regulate older powered industrial trucks; types of accidents and injuries associated with operating such machines; plus, costs and benefits of retrofitting the machines with safety features. The agency adopted a powered industrial truck standard, now categorized CFR 1910.178, in 1971 and used an American National Standards Institute document issued two years prior as the basis.
Powered industrial trucks include forklifts, tractors, platform lifts, motorized hand models, and other specialized plant or yard vehicles powered by an electrical motor or internal combustion engine. OSHA will weigh comments and materials submitted through June 9 to the electronic portal, www.regulations.gov, to determine what action, if any, it may take to reduce regulatory burdens and create jobs while improving worker safety. Written comments and printed materials—labeled Powered Industrial Trucks, OSHA–2018–0008—can also be mailed to the OSHA Docket Office, Room N–3653, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20210.