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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  5. Watching the Weather
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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?

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