December 22, 2016
MOLINE, Ill. – Under terms of a settlement agreement, a pipefitter previously employed by John Deere will receive a total of $204,315 in back wages and “front pay” and $70,685 in other damages.
Deere & Co., which operates as John Deere, signed the settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration on Dec. 12, 2016. The agreement resolves a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois in July 2015 under the anti-retaliation provision of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. The lawsuit alleged the pipefitter was terminated from the Moline facility in June 2012 after reporting unsafe working conditions and filing a complaint with OSHA after the company failed to correct one of the unsafe conditions.
Deere did not admit liability in the case, but has agreed to pay the pipefitter $111,512 in back wages, $92,803 in front pay, compensation in lieu of reinstatement, as well as $32,000 in compensatory damages and $38,685 in unspecified damages. The agreement allows for the company to make the payments in three installments to be paid in full by Jan. 31, 2018.
“The settlement of this case represents a true win for an employee who was willing to risk his job to ensure workplace safety for himself and his co-workers,” said Kenneth Nishiyama Atha, regional administrator for OSHA in Chicago. “Commitment to workplace safety should be commended – not punished. The department will do everything in its power to prevent retaliation against workers who report unsafe working conditions.”
John Deere, which manufactures agricultural, construction, and forestry machinery as well as diesel engines used in heavy equipment and lawn care equipment, also agreed to post OSHA’s Job Safety and Health: It’s the Law poster , and OSHA Fact Sheet: Your Rights as a Whistleblower, in a conspicuous place at all its workplaces.
An investigation by OSHA found the pipefitter was dismissed on June 4, 2012, allegedly in retaliation for reporting unsafe working conditions at the Moline facility to OSHA on three separate occasions. OSHA’s subsequent investigations cited hazards at the facility in April 2010, January 2012 and May 2012.
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of 22 statutes protecting employees who report violations of various airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, motor vehicle safety, health care reform, nuclear, pipeline, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime and securities laws.
Employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who raise concerns or provide information to their employer or the government under any of these laws. Employees who believe they are a victim of retaliation for engaging in protected conduct may file a complaint with OSHA’s Directorate of Whistleblower Protection Programs.
To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint or report amputations, eye loss, workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA’s toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the whistleblower’s office in Chicago at 312-353-2220.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.