The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has ordered Palumbo Trucking of North Branford, Conn., and owner David Palumbo to withdraw what is says is a retaliatory lawsuit filed against two former workers who raised safety concerns, pay them $60,000 in damages and take other corrective actions.
The order follows an OSHA investigation that found the company and Palumbo violated the whistleblower protection provisions of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act when they filed a lawsuit against two unidentified former workers, a mechanic and a driver, who had registered complaints about a potentially unsafe truck with the North Branford Police Department and the Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles in September 2012.
While the workers were discharged from employment for reasons not related to their protected activities, the company subsequently filed a lawsuit against the two workers in the Superior Court of Connecticut on Jan. 7, 2013, alleging that they intentionally and maliciously filed the complaint with the North Branford Police Department.
In addition to ordering the withdrawal of the lawsuit, the order requires Palumbo to pay each worker $20,000 in punitive damages for the filing and litigating of a lawsuit that was solely intended to retaliate against activities protected by the STAA, according to OSHA, as well as $10,000 each in compensatory damages for mental anguish, emotional distress, pain and suffering. Additionally, the company must pay reasonable attorney's fees to the complainants, provide the former workers a neutral job reference, and post a notice on its job site and provide fact sheets to its workers notifying them of their rights under the STAA.
The company or the complainants may file objections or request a hearing before the department's Office of Administrative Law Judges within 30 days of receipt of OSHA's order.