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US Suit Defends Safety Manager

Thursday, January 12, 2017

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The Labor Department has filed suit against a Georgia-based multistate roofing contractor and its owner for allegedly firing an employee after he cooperated in a federal workplace inspection.

Jasper Roofing Contractors Inc. and owner/CEO Brian Wedding are accused of discriminating against the safety manager by conducting retaliatory acts, ultimately resulting in termination, after he provided documentation to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration regarding the company’s safety compliance. The worker was also attempting to improve the safety culture at the roofing company, the Labor Department said in a release.

Roofing
© iStock.com / LesPalenik

Fall protection tops OSHA's list of the most frequently cited violations. 

The agency does not release names of whistleblowers. A local ABC News affiliate reports that the company's safety manager had worked for the company just four months in 2014 and 2015.

Discrimination Charged

The case, filed Dec. 28, in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, claims Wedding and his company were in violation of Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

The company did not respond Wednesday (Jan. 11) to a request for comment.

Founded in 2004, the company is based in Kennesaw, Georgia, and has branches located in Atlanta, Evansville, Fort Myers, Jacksonville, Orlando and Tampa. Its parent company, Wedding Holdings, has subsidiaries in the commercial real estate, food service and automotive industries.

The suit seeks back wages, interest, compensatory damages, as well as injunctive relief, according to the agency. The case also seeks to have the employee’s personnel records expunged with respect to the matters at issue in the case and to bar Jasper Roofing Contractors against future violations of the OSH Act.

"Employees have the right to participate in an Occupational Safety and Health inspection without the fear of retaliation," said Kurt Petermeyer, OSHA's regional administrator in Atlanta. "OSHA will continue to hold companies accountable that violate the whistleblower provisions of the OSH Act."

First Coast News reports that the safety manager was called to the jobsite while a safety inspection was underway and  allowed other employees to be interviewed by OSHA representatives. Two weeks later, the manager was fired, the report said.

Whistleblower Protection

OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and 21 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of various airline, commercial motor carrier, nuclear, pipeline, public transportation agency, maritime and other laws.

Under these laws, employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who raise protected concerns or provide protected information to the employer or government. Employees who believe they have been retaliated against for engaging in protected conduct may file a complaint for an investigation by OSHA's Whistleblower Protection Program.

History of Citations

Jasper Contractors has been cited 13 times since 2012, according to a review of OSHA’s database.

Those citations stem from inspections in multiple states. Some of the cases have been closed, with reductions in fines.

Fall-protection hazards were the leading source of the citations.

   

Tagged categories: Department of Labor; Government; Health and safety; OSHA; Roofing contractors; Safety; Whistle blowing

Comment from Jesse Melton, (1/12/2017, 7:34 AM)

I love it when someone names themselves Owner and CEO. It's entirely pointless and wildly contradictory.

Can anyone explain what personnel records are the suit wants expunged and what they mean by barring contractors from future violations?


Comment from M. Halliwell, (1/12/2017, 12:17 PM)

Jesse, for small companies, I can agree that owner and CEO can be pointless depending on the corporate structure. However, if you have a company with a small managing board that is privately owned, then both titles could apply. As for the next item....chances are the company put in their files that they fired this guy for breach of trust, unauthorized release of information or something equally nasty that could hurt his chances with another prospective employer in the future...that's probably what they want removed. The last item....I don't know. Maybe they are trying to add some court ordered teeth as these guys keep breaking the OSHA rules. Maybe they are hoping that if they get the court to bar them, that next time they can fine them and bring them in front of the judge for contempt or violating a court order or something.


Comment from Jody Favia, (1/13/2017, 9:29 AM)

Why osha is a joke. They will defend an employee for whistle blowing. But let that same employee break a simple osha reg, and the employer is 100% responsible. The employee has zero fault. Even if safety meetings osha classes and all proper equipment is supplied to them. osha cares about $$$$ only as evidenced by all the minor infractions, (paperwork) that have been raised to ridiculis levels. If they were really concerned w/ safety they would visit residential sites wher there is absolutely no regard to safety. Reason, nobody to fine, as they will just go back or rename the company


Comment from M. Halliwell, (1/16/2017, 11:22 AM)

Hi Jody, a couple things. First, I agree with you about personal responsibility. In my jurisdiction, our OSHA has the ability to (and does) fine the worker too. It's not a huge amount, but for a working stiff, it's more a kick in the shorts than a speeding ticket. Also, the number of roofers making the Paint Square and D&D news feeds these days says someone at OSHA is hitting residential stuff....at least for the roofers. Still, I hear you that more could/should be done...there are so few inspectors out there that they tend to hit the bigger sites more than the little ones.


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