Blowing the Whistle on the Postal Service


In February of 2008, a safety specialist employed by the U.S. Postal Service told a coworker she could call the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to report that something at the USPS facility was making her physically ill. He then told his managers about this interaction, believing he had done nothing wrong. To his surprise, his employer turned on him.

Over the ensuing six years, he was repeatedly and very publicly punished for having the temerity to stand up for workplace safety. He was summarily demoted, transferred to a different facility, assigned menial work, harassed in a series of investigative interviews, issued a disciplinary letter, denied a promotion, forced to take a position hundreds of miles from his home and subjected to pervasive hostility on the job.

When this Postal Service employee told his coworker she had rights under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, including the right to contact OSHA, he was fulfilling a key element of the arrangement Congress made to protect American workers. His reward was years of harassment and misery.

American workplaces would be far more dangerous if employees did not come forward with their safety and health concerns. OSHA employs about 8,000 inspectors to help ensure workers return home alive. Without regular employees standing up for their safety (and the safety of others), OSHA is spread too thin to reach all workers.

In February of 2012 we filed suit against the Postal Service. After a weeklong trial in late 2014, in which the safety specialist finally got his day in court to tell the judge and the public about the array of punishments he suffered, a federal judge in Washington ruled in his favor.

It is no exaggeration to describe my team as yelling with joy as much as the employee did.

The judge ruled that the Postal Service owed him more than $229,000 in economic losses and for the emotional distress. The judge also ordered the Postal Service to promote him, and to make the unlawful harassment known to the workers that the safety specialist had worked to protect. Furthermore, the judge also issued a court order prohibiting the Postal Service from retaliating against other employees for standing up for health and safety in any of the facilities where he worked.

This decision sends a powerful message to employers:  retaliation for striving for a safe workplace will not be tolerated. On behalf of workers everywhere, our hero refused to sit down and let occupational safety and health rights be trampled. For that and for much more: THANK YOU!

Janet Herold is the regional solicitor for the Labor Department in San Francisco.

Editor’s note: If you believe you have been retaliated against for reporting safety or health concerns in your workplace, file a complaint online or call OSHA today at 1-800-321-OSHA (6742).


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Comments

What is the responsibility of the employer concerning training employees who they (the employer) require to do a pre-op inspection on all fork lifts trucks, etc. Before and after their use. Is the employer mandated by any law to provide such training before they can punish an employee who did not report unknown issues after using fork lift trucks,etc.

Hi Reginald,

Please contact 800-321-6742 (OSHA) for help with your question. You can also find contact info for your local OSHA area office here: https://www.osha.gov/html/RAmap.html.

Yes,the employer should provide a forklift certification exam. That the employee must pass.

Can a retail employee be made to stand for 8 hlours?

Hi Anita,

Please contact 800-321-6742 (OSHA) for help with your question. You can also find contact info for your local OSHA area office here: https://www.osha.gov/html/RAmap.html.

NO! The employer must provide two 15 minute breaks and a half hour lunch break in a 8 hour work day.

Is an 8 and a half hour workday without breaks lawful?

How soon can an OSHA inspector go to a work place before an employer can try to fix a reported Saftey Hazard

Hi Carlos,

You can contact OSHA by calling 800-321-6742 (OSHA) for help with your question. You can also find your local OSHA area office here: https://www.osha.gov/html/RAmap.html.

Need to know where nearest office is for greeley co.oh ya you guys are doing a great job.thank you

You can contact OSHA by calling 800-321-6742. You can also find your local OSHA area office here: https://www.osha.gov/html/RAmap.html.

How can my school cafeteria manager be held responsible for not reporting an employee for repeatedly urinating and blood found on the toilet seat that other employees use. For the past 3 years she has been told about it and has done nothing about it. Yesterday someone sat in it and went to the schools nurse to report it and was sent to have blood drawn to test for diseases. The supervisor came out and talked to both employees. What was said to the one that reported it was to not stir thing up since there is only 22 days left it the school year. Feeling angry

WHY IS LAUSD ALLOWING PAINTERS ON CAMPUS AT PHOENIX CONTINUATION HIGH SCHOOL IN THE WEST DISTRICT WHILE STUDENTS AND TEACHERS ARE STILL IN SESSION TRYING THEIR BEST TO TEACH AND LEARN WHILE BREATHING IN TOXIC FUMES OF PAINT?

How hot is too hot to work in a warehouse?

Kathy, you can find more information on our website at https://www.osha.gov/OSHA_FAQs.html#collapse93. And if you need to speak with an OSHA representative, please call 800-321-6742.

Are there guidelines concerning bending forward, twisting, reaching forward, .... I am required to do this at my job for 16 +years and am now suffering with low back pain. My oji claim has been denied as I can not prove one specific incident that hurt my back. It is caused by repetitive movement/ poorly designed work stations. I'm not sure what I need to do as I need my job. Thank you for your assistance

Sharon, you can contact OSHA for more information at 800-321-6742 (OSHA).

How cold is too cold to work 8 hours In a refrigerated room?and no ppe is provided working in a non ventilated room with chlorinated floor cleanser and sanitizer. After working there about a month I started having pains in my lung specially when I took a deep breath and I was told I could not ventilate the room is this something that can be reported?

Susan, you can contact OSHA for more information at 800-321-6742 (OSHA). Here are answers to frequently asked questions regarding air quality: https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/indoorairquality/faqs.html.

Can an employer turn off the AC in a warehouse and disconnect the thermostat so the employees can't turn it back on?

Eric you can contact OSHA for more information at 800-321-6742 (OSHA). Here are answers to frequently asked questions regarding air quality: https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/indoorairquality/faqs.html.

What type of safety barriers are required for a hole 4'x9'x1' deep in a concrete motorized traffic area ?

Jim, you can contact OSHA for more information at 800-321-6742 (OSHA).

What can be done when employer places there employee,s in unsafe vehicles . And tell the employee oh it alright had it checked and it will be fine it just makes that sound you can drive it. This employer has junk for vehicles and I feel that she is putting all of us employee,s in danger... I my self was driving one of the mini vans was heading into a round about and heard knock and right after the the steering became very hard it took all i had to steer it. Called and she told me it rain the day before and that vehicle does that . I stated to her it takes all I have to drive this she said finish your route and after that we will have someone look at it.

Sandra, you can contact OSHA for more information at 800-321-6742 (OSHA).

If an employer accidently told a new hire minimum wage is 11.00 instead of 10.50. And that employee told everyone else, when confronted to the employer and said " raises " will be given,but never given at all.
And reported to the main boss and still hasn't done anything.

Could you file a complaint?

Jessica, please call our Wage and Hour Division to discuss your situation: 1-866-487-9243.

Raises should be given upon work evaluations.

Is a 8-10 minute walk, including up 3 ramps to the third floor of a bldg considered an immediately available restroom ?

Me pueden suspender 1 semana de mi trabajo por ir a tomar agua en horarios de trabajo

I just started working in shipping. My company ships steel buildings. We have to load Huge steel walls on a flatbed trailer that stacks up to 10ft high. They have me climb up the pallets to the top to secure the tie downs. They have us climbing every level until we reach the top. 9Also they have us working 15+ hours at a time. There is nothing to break a fall. I am worried that I will be hurt. Is my company breaking OSHA laws?

I just started working in shipping. My company ships steel buildings. We have to load Huge steel walls on a flatbed trailer that stacks up to 10ft high. They have me climb up the pallets to the top to secure the tie downs. They have us climbing every level until we reach the top. 9Also they have us working 15+ hours at a time. There is nothing to break a fall. I am worried that I will be hurt. Is my company breaking OSHA laws?

tkoebel is just deferring the problem i don't know why you guys keep asking him questions.

I was working in a Harzadous waste company in NC as material handler and I was never got safety shoes from the branch manager. Drivers got all safety shoes but I was never provided with them, at one point I worked with sneakers.

Oscar, you can call 1-800-321-OSHA if you'd like to discuss your concern or go to https://www.osha.gov/workers/file_complaint.html to submit a complaint online.

I work for a world class auto manufacturer that is VPP certified and in my department our supervisor told us to ignore the planned fire drill and continue working because we couldn't afford the downtime. Is this legal?

Can an employer require staff to office out of a very small closet with no ventilation or windows? There are 2 employees in a space I would estimate to be about 60 square feet.

If someone on a construction site gets on a scissor lift that is not rented to their company and they are not trained can the contractor who has rights to that scissor lift enforce measures to get the other untrained contractor off, and what would be the proper way to enforce this after they tell you no they are not getting off. And they dont speak english or understand english

Inquiring minds need to know from a historic building that has flooded (ground level, almost the basement level) numerous times, then had companies come in and clean...shouldn't the carpets have been removed and replaced?

In my workplace, I found out that one of my co-workers reported three weeks ago to the nurse a discomfort in her arm when she works in one of the different tasks that she performs during the day. I asked her how she feels. She answered that she has a lot of discomforts in her arm, and each day is worst. She also mentioned that she does not feel happy with the medical treatment that she receives. I told her that she has rights under OSHA and the worker's compensation laws. She was told that she could not go to another doctor. I am distraught with the situation because she is in pain and is not receiving the adequate medical treatment. I don't care, but I'm going to advise her about her rights. Even though, I know for sure that my employer is going to retaliate against me when they found out.

I am a letter carrier and on my walking route there was a knee high metal driveway divide between mailboxes only an inch wide and approximately 17 inches high, lower than the step up into the vehicle I used to drive for this route. I tripped on the divide but I did not allow myself to fall. Unfortunately, I planted my left foot with my toe oriented diagonally as I attempted to catch my balance and collapsed in a squatting position that resulted in my tibial platuae fracture. The supervisors were called and they left me out there for almost an hour. A customer insisted on taking me to the hospital. In the er there were 2 supervisors there. They told me to fill out the ca 1 but they did not explain anything. So I thought I could refuse workers comp. they had me write on my statement “I wish not to file a ca1” and sign it then one of them tore up my original ca1 and possibly my medical authorization because I said I’d have medi cal help me. I was left in the dark and my research shows me that my supervisors allowed me to commit and illegal act by trying to conceal or refuse to report an on the job injury. They made no attempt and still haven’t provided me with any information on proceeding to get treatment so I could come back to work. I had to seek knowledge on my own. I told the union but they did not file a grieve when ca 17 was not given to me within the time allotted in the rules for proper filing a claim to get treatment for this severe of an injury. I gave usps a second ca 1 and the dol didn’t get it until the day before a decision would have to be made based on medical evidence. Usps did not transmit the hospital summaries I gave them so there was no medical evidence. I had to bust my ass with broken knee to get two records and get them in late because usps’ negligent acts. Then I was interviewed and disciplined almost two months after the accident, I think they are trying to cover their rear because they handled my injury inappropriately and incompetently

I am a mail carrier for the U.S. Postal Service. I had flu symptoms and made a doctors appointment at 3:40 pm. I work until 3:15 pm. I was asked to work overtime that day and told the supervisor I had a doctors appointment. I was brought in the office and told by the station manager that I was being forced to work. She then gave me a direct order that I "could not go to the doctor". I made an appointment the next day at 11:30 am and called in sick the next day so that I could get to that appointment.
Is it legal for management to force you to work sick? Can anything be done about it?

I work in a child care center. I was trained 'it is Mandatory to wear disposable rubber gloves and use paper on the diaper changing table to prevent pee and poop to diractly contact the table'. Yet, for long periods of time (three weeks) the administrators refuse to buy these items.(and many others) once we ran out of them. This is unsanitary. We don't know what to do. Many items are available only when accreditation shows up.

I work in a childcare center. Many employees have left the job and there are no new hires. At nap time, rooms have children way beyond than the regulations permit. In case of an emergency, one adult won't be able to remove all children from danger or follow procedures. We don't know what to do or where to send a complaint. We are scared.

What can an employee to curb the use of items like air fresheners, chlorine based cleaning products and other toxic items in the workplace? If the companies facilities department can use non-toxic low-odor products in the workplace why is it that employees are allowed to use products that emit toxic fumes and then not take their affect on other employees seriously? There is no need to bring chlorine based products into the workplace to clean spaces where the use of plain soap and water will do - such as to dust or clean off their desks. What can an employee do to not be ostracized for speaking out against the use of these types of products in the workplace?

Is a Postal PostMaster allowed to threaten and harras an employee for using the bathroom on the clock? Stating “have to come to work mentally and physically prepared”?

I work at the USPS as a custodian in the Fort Worth district my station was built in 1950's . The post office paid a professional contractor to come out and inspect the whole building for asbestos in 1996.
The building came up positive , the entire floor of tthe building has asbestos in tiles. Now in the year 2018 I am told to strip and wax the floor and i refused because i read where OSHA requires PPE personal protective equipment.
Respirators, gloves, boots and they have to be a special type of respirators and according to OSHA the building has to have an eyewash station and No one should be in the building when all the waxing and striping is to be done due to fumes from the chemicals used. The manager wants me to do it while I'm here during my 4 hour shift because i work at 2 stations . I told her No there are people in the building we should do it on Sunday when No one is here but she said No i an Not paying you overtime for Sunday and she threatened to give me a failure to follow instructions , even after i told her the floor has asbestos and i am Not trained on how to strip and wax floor .

A whistle-blower does not necessarily have to be a USPS employee. As a USPS customer I have been retaliated against for reporting employee fraud and mailbox break-ins. Seems even Ohio US Senator Brown could not take effective action to resolve the retaliations when we turned to him for help.

I work in a retail store that has cash registers by an entrance to a shopping mall. Employees assigned to those registers are allowed to stand on left over Bowflex mats to help with leg and foot fatigue (they work very poorly as such) when they ring register. When they are not with a customer, they are expected to walk over to and stand in the entrance and "greet" incoming or exiting customers. There is NO anti-fatigue mat of any kind there. Employees stand or pace on hard concrete or wood flooring. Plus, every time the phone rings (there is a phone connected to the main phone system by these registers that rings when a customer calls the store with a question or comment), the employee is expected to walk back and forth (a distance of aprox 20-30 feet) to answer it and then resume their greeting position. A majority of that walk is also without anti-fatigue mats. Is this an OSHA issue, or just something the employees need to learn to deal with?

Your working in a poorly venilated office 8 hours a day. odor of stench from dead mice and has been brought to attention of the manager. Comment is it will dry out. Nothing is done to correct problem till employee goes over managers head and then finally gets it cleaned out. Months before was a strange odor in which was thought the dead mice. Everyday working 8 hours in that office. Getting stronger each day not to mention co worker and self were getting headaches and burning eyes. Come to finally fine out the sewer pipe under bldg had seperated. Been breathing the gasses release for months am guessing. I spoke spoke with suprervisor above managers head and said I was thinking of contacting osha. I didn't but still don't feel right. wonder if I should have a blood test or something.

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