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Department of Labor: Man fired for reporting improper asbestos removal

September 8, 2012
By LEVI PASCHER , The Leader Herald

GLOVERSVILLE - The U.S. Department of Labor filed a lawsuit against a demolition company for allegedly firing an employee who reported improper asbestos removal practices while working at Gloversville High School.

According to a news release from the department, the defendants - Albany-based demolition and construction disposal contractor Champagne Demolition, and manager Joseph Champagne - discriminated against the employee by conducting retaliatory acts in violation of Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

"All employees have the right to report potential safety and health hazards to their employers and to proper authorities without fear of harassment, termination or other retaliation," said Robert Kulick in the press release, OSHA's regional administrator in New York. "Such behavior can intimidate workers into silence, putting them at risk if they are afraid to report conditions that can injure or sicken them. That is unacceptable, and the Labor Department will take all necessary legal steps on behalf of whistleblowing workers."

According to the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District?Court for the Northern?District of New York, on June 10, 2010, an employee, Donald Miles, informed company management of the incorrect practices.

As a result, the lawsuit said, the next day Miles was fired and subjected to verbal threats and legal action.

The lawsuit, filed last month, said Leon Ostrander, a supervisor employed by Champagne Demolition, called Miles and left him a voicemail message in which he ackowledged that Miles had made "accusations" against him, and said, among other things, "I'm going to get you Donny, I'm going to get you."

Miles then filed a complaint with the department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration, according to a news release. That lead to a whistleblower investigation that found truth to his allegations, the release said.

The lawsuit said the department is demanding the demolition company reinstate Miles to his previous position, with full benefits and other perquisites of employment, and without any break in seniority. The department also ask for the company to completely clear Miles records of all references to the circumstances in the case. In addition, they ask the demolition company to post a notice of employees' right to report hazards without retaliation. The department also seeks lost wages accompanied with compensatory, emotional and financial distress damages for Miles.

The law states employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who raise various protected concerns or provide protected information to the employer or to the government, the release said. Under this law, employees who believe that they have been mistreated for those actions may file a complaint with the secretary of labor for and investigation by OSHA's Whistleblower Protection Program.



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