If your fingers are crushed in a press brake and you speak up about it, should you be fired?
According to a federal lawsuit, absolutely not, but that’s what happened to an employee who worked at the Lloyd Industries’ Montgomeryville plant. He had to have three fingers amputated after the accident, and was told by the company not to come back to work.
The employee filed a safety complaint with OSHA. The agency opened an inspection, and later issued citations with penalties totaling $822,000, but that wasn’t the end of it. Lloyd allegedly retaliated, and now it is defending a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Labor Department.
Employees Speak Up, are Fired by Philadelphia Plant
The employee suffered the injury to his hand on July 11, 2014, according to Philly News. Lloyd Industries makes ventilation and safety ducts used at airports and stadiums. OSHA regional administrator Richard Mendelson stated that since 2000, about 40 injuries, including crushed and amputated fingers, have been recorded at the Montgomeryville plant.
The employee filed a workers’ compensation claim concerning his injury, and asked a fellow employee to help him photograph the machine where his fingers were crushed, as it was not equipped with safety guards. The other employee agreed, providing photographs of the machine and of other unsafe areas in the shop, which the injured employee then turned over to OSHA.
The agency opened an investigation, and visited the plant and the shop where the accident took place on November 13, 2014. As a result, OSHA cited Lloyd with several safety violations and fined them $822,000 in May 2015. A few hours later, the company fired the plant manager, who had also provided testimony about the accident. They had previously also fired the employee who had assisted in taking the photographs.
These two employees then filed complaints with OSHA, stating that they had lost their jobs “in violation of OHSA’s whistleblower protections.”
U.S. Department of Labor Files Lawsuit Against Lloyd Industries
In response to Lloyd’s actions, the U.S. Department of Labor filed a new lawsuit on March 8, 2016. In its investigation, OSHA had found that Lloyd violated the anti-discrimination provision of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, when it fired the employees because they had engaged in activities protected under the act.
The plaintiffs seek to have both employees reinstated, and asked that both be compensated for lost wages and other damages suffered because of the wrongful terminations. They also want Lloyd Industries to post notices at all its work sites stating it will not discriminate or retaliate against employees who speak up about safety issues. The company has operations in Florida and Hong Kong.
The case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
Focusing on representing injury victims nationwide in product liability and complex personal injury litigation, Mr. Cohn has litigated a wide-array of cases against numerous manufacturers, employers, landowners, and negligent third-parties—resulting in many multi-million dollar recoveries. In addition to working for nationwide plaintiffs firms in New York, he is also a former Manhattan Assistant District Attorney.