Worker was fired for his bad attitude: Why's OSHA involved?

Worker was fired for his bad attitude: Why's OSHA involved?

What would you do in this situation? An employee comes to you with a safety complaint.   The hazard the employee brings up is legitimate, but he goes about the complaint all wrong.  He's disrespectful and disruptive to the point where some managers might consider firing him.  Where would you draw the line?  Was the employee a whistleblower?
That's the situation involving one worker who was considered too disruptive when he brought up hazards and was fired.

The unnamed worker complained several times about an unsafe crane lift that was endangering workers.  Eventually MMR Contractors, based in Baton Rouge, LA, and general contractor Fluor Corp., of Greenville, SC, decided to let the worker go for disruptive behavior.

The worker said he was fired for bringing up safety concerns, and OSHA agreed. The companies backed down and came to a settlement with the worker. Under that settlement the employers must:

• pay $17,500 in back wages
• remove any reference to the termination from his personnel file
• provide neutral employment references, and
• agree not to unlawfully retaliate against other employees

Why did the companies agree to the settlement? OSHA said the employee's behavior fell under the "leeway doctrine" of the OSHA Act. That doctrine gives employees some leeway in how they bring up safety issues. Basically, it says workers have a right to be a little PO'd if they're exposed to unchecked hazards.  But it doesn't give workers a blank check to fly off the handle just because a safety issue is involved.  Workers still need to be respectful.

In another recent whistleblower case, a worker said he was fired in retaliation for bringing up safety concerns.  In that case, the company won because the worker was hostile and rude to several workers and managers, not just the safety manager.  Bottom line: With any safety concern an employee has, the hazard should be addressed first.  Then, if the worker's tone was rude, tackle those issues separately.

Reprinted with permission from:

Safety Compliance Alert 2/23/11

4 comments (Add your own)

1. WalnutWorks wrote:
I was fired over this letter. These are concerns I addressed to the Safety officer who works for our company. I sent it too him, cc to my Project Engineer and Superintendent. The Pm who put me in charge of the BP pipe removal crew told the super and engineer to tell me to go home on Friday night. No reason was given for me leaving except to go back to my home state and wait for the HR to contact me about the reason. The Pm told me on the way home that I was terminated. After arriving home, I had to sign a letter of termination stating I was insubordinate. I highlighted and initialed that I did not agree to their statement and signed it anyway. The company told me if I did not sign it I was being insubordinate and would not receive my paycheck.
Here is that letter.

Hey Aubrey,

As I am traveling to the jobsite, I was able to take some time to really think about the safety issues for the winch and the zipline. I know you are doing the TSEA’s for USA, so I thought maybe I would pass onto you some of the things we need to watch out for and maybe you can, like Dave Hardy has done for us, write up a safety report that we can all follow. Clay asked me to get in touch with the safety officer who was going to be Dave Hardy, but he left USA along with the other one.
Here are my concerns about the winch.
• The placement of the winch in relationship to the pipe being pulled by the winch. Are the bolts we plan to use to bolt it to the bed of the stake bed truck rated for the kind of stress we plan to put winch as we pull the pipe? I do have the specs as to the breaking strengths of the 3/8 wire rope on me.
• The winch cable what to do if it snaps Do we plan to use a shield to protect the operator? Can we position the winch off to the side so it won’t snap back in the path of the operator? I think we should establish a safe working distance when the operator uses the hand held controls.
• How much pipe should we pull so we don’t over load the winch. I think we should use the chart I am going to be providing to Steve and determine how to much pull and cut. We should document this for the client’s use in the field. I can add it to my book if you like.
• Hooking up the winch to the correct supplied electric. Again I think we should use our safe distance that we determine to make sure the generator we are using is either on the bed of the truck or far enough away in case a cable snaps. There is some kind of control box on this winch. I don’t know what it is rated for or what phase it will take.
I already have a really good working idea on how to use our zipline for the Markar property. I never gave it any thought about the winch or its uses while I was back in Denver finishing up the Pre quals.
As Dale mentioned to me that I am responsible for the lives of these men who are going to working with me on the Pipe Removal crew assigned to me. I could really use your help in getting this setup in a safe and controlled working matter.
I plan to visit Las Vegas if the time allows. Thanks for all your help and I look forward to working with you on this Project. It is my first experience working with such high cliental.

Based off of memory this is the phone call conversation I had with Billy Adder and Steven Hillman.
“Hey Billy,
Bill here, I really am questioning if we can safely use this zipline in these trees. Have you seen it is a real jungle in there. I doubt if I have at least one square inch of clear travel from tree to tree. I know we are going to have to clear some pathways and cut down some trees.
(Billy hands the phone to Steve Hillman).
Billy come on back to the site; don’t talk with the safety guys there about this. We will deal with it later.

I address you to explain to me where I was being insubordinate over bringing up these concerns that could endangered men's live in my charge.
Do I have a case of wrongful termination and can I fight their statement of insubordination and clear my name?. Two weeks prior I was given compliments on well I was doing and how I won this bid for them to work for BP.
There is no paper trail of any misconduct on my part in the two years I worked for them.

Sat, August 27, 2011 @ 6:47 PM

2. Aamir wrote:
Traduction (frane7ais > anglais)Hello evnyeoreI am a hairdresser in France, I used the first version of BBO was a good product with very good results, given the controversy I stopped, I then ordered the BBO ZERO since they announced the same results as the BBO 1,This is completely FALSE,the product is unpleasant to use, it leaves hair greasy and sticky, for the result it does not there, no .. more hair is dull and as if they were dry the product feels straightening due to sodium hydroxide in it I'll get all the forums to alert States of this scam because I am disgusted by this company, in fact I sent several emails for explanations and that I shall, 1 Litre of BBO ZERO cost me $ 530 (postage and VAT included) so when I think this product and unusable and that the more they do not respond to my emails I am extremely angry ..When it is to collect money they respond very quickly, but my anger does not diminish the fact that BBO is a scam with ZERO false advertising !!!!!!!Sorry for the mistakes I use a translator

Wed, September 26, 2012 @ 12:19 AM

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Fri, September 28, 2012 @ 4:15 PM

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