An employee of Triple B Cleaning in Texas requested personal protective equipment while performing dry cleaning duties. Triple B denied the request. The employee notified the media, and after a reporter contacted the employee’s supervisor, the employee was demoted and assigned menial tasks. Following the airing of the employee’s complaint by local news, the employee was terminated. After being terminated, the employee filed a whistle-blower complaint alleging that Triple B acted in retaliation for contacting the media about unsafe working conditions. OSHA investigated the complaint and determined that Triple B Cleaning’s decision to terminate the employee was in violation of the whistle-blower provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. The company entered into a consent judgment under which it paid the employee $ 30,000 for lost wages, agreed to an injunction prohibiting future discrimination, and posted a notice advising its employees of their rights under OSHA’s whistle-blower protection provision.
a. What public policy—or policies—are at issue in this situation?
b. Did Triple B act ethically? Did the employee act ethically? Explain.
c. In OSHA’s press release regarding the settlement, OSHA Regional Administrator Dean McDaniel stated: “Employees should be free to exercise their rights under the law without fear of retaliation by their employers . . .” What consequences might be expected to accompany the fear of retaliation employees often feel when exercising their rights?