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US Department of Labor Fines Companies for Blacklisting

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DISH Network Ordered to Pay $257,000 in Wages and Damages to Blacklisted Former Employee

Company: DISH Network, New York

Scope: An employee was blacklisted after he reported a vendor for submitting fraudulent invoices and testifying at a deposition.

What Happened: The employee, who worked between March 2007 and November 2008 in DISH's marketing department, notified his superior in the summer of 2008 that a vendor was defrauding DISH by charging for work it had not performed. In August 2011, he filed a complaint with OSHA after learning that he had subsequently been blacklisted three times after leaving DISH Network. The blacklisting included a negative job reference, refusal to do business with the former employee's subsequent employer and refusal to carry a satellite channel after learning that the former employee represented the channel.

Results: DISH Network has been ordered by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration to pay the former employee $157,024 in back wages, $100,000 in compensatory damages and take other corrective action. Additionally, DISH Network was ordered to pay reasonable attorneys' fees for the former employee; not discriminate or retaliate in any way against him; expunge his employment record of any reference to his exercising his rights under Sarbanes-Oxley (see notes); and post a notice about employee whistleblower rights in a place visible to employees.

Notes: It was determined by OSHA that DISH Network had violated the anti-retaliatory provisions of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (SOX) by blacklisting the former employee. The Act states that individuals who knowingly retaliate against whistleblowers may be fined and imprisoned for up to 10 years. In addition, the Act provides employees who have been retaliated against as a result of whistleblowing, a civil cause of action for money damages. All 22 provisions, including the whistleblower statute, of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 are enforced by OSHA.

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A Missouri Trucking Company is Ordered to Pay More than $100,000 to Blacklisted Driver

Company: New Prime Inc., New York

Scope: An investigation by OSHA discovered that New Prime Inc. retaliated against one of their truck drivers by blacklisting him in the commercial transport industry following him seeking medical attention for a work-related injury.

What Happened: In October 2008, the driver notified his supervisors that he sustained an on-the-job back injury and that he was seeking medical attention. In November of the same year he provided documentation that the condition of his back was serious enough to prevent him from returning to work because operating a commercial motor vehicle would be unsafe due to the medications he had been prescribed. In July of the following year, he was released for full duty by his physician. He chose not to return to New Prime Inc. and after being rejected for a job elsewhere in the same industry, the driver learned that New Prime Inc. had submitted misleading and damaging information about his employment to a provider of pre-employment and drug testing screening services. The driver subsequently filed a complaint with OSHA, alleging violation of the anti-retaliatory provisions of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act.

Results: OSHA is ordering New Prime Inc. to pay the former employee lost wages with interest in the amount of $41,373.34; $40,000 in compensatory damages for pain, suffering, emotional distress and loss of property and home; and $20,000 in punitive damages because of the company's callous and reckless disregard for the worker's rights. The company is also ordered to expunge the former employee's employment records of any reference to his unlawful termination.

Notes: Employees who raise protected concerns or provide protected information to their employer are protected from employer retaliation by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 and OSHA's enforcement thereof.

 

Topics: Whistle Blower Protection Violations and Penalties Case Studies