US Department of Labor Sues Austin Luxury Car Dealer Fires Employee for Raising Concerns About COVID-19

US Department of Labor sues luxury car dealership over dismissal of employee for raising concerns about COVID-19

Hi Tech Motorcars LLC laid off an employee to warn managers and co-workers.

The U.S. Department of Labor has filed a lawsuit against an Austin luxury car dealership for firing an employee who warned managers and other colleagues of the potential dangers of COVID-19 in the workplace. An OSHA investigation found that Hi Tech Motorcars LLC, Hi Tech Imports LLC and Hi Tech Luxury Imports LLC violated occupational safety and health law when they retaliated against the worker in December 2020. After learning that a colleague had tested positive for the coronavirus, the employee requested that management immediately notify other employees of their exposure.

When management took no action, the employee emailed all company employees about the potential dangers. Less than an hour later, the employee was fired. OSHA concluded that the employee had exercised his legal rights under Section 11 (c) of the OSH Act and that the termination was unlawful. According to a press release, its filing with the United States District Court for the West District of Texas, Austin Division, the department seeks reinstatement, loss of wages and benefits resulting from termination, reimbursement of costs and expenses, compensatory damages and exemplary or punitive damages.

“No worker should be afraid of losing their job for raising occupational safety and health concerns,” said OSHA regional administrator Eric S. Harbin in Dallas. “The OSHA investigation and the US Department of Labor’s action in this matter show that we will vigorously enforce these protections. ”

“This employee has acted out of genuine concern for his safety and the safety of his co-workers, and his actions are protected by federal law,” said regional labor attorney John Rainwater in Dallas. “The law also protects whistleblowers against retaliation from their employer and holds employers accountable when they do.”

OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program enforces the whistleblower provisions of 25 whistleblower laws protecting employees from retaliation for reporting violations of various occupational safety and health rules, airline, commercial road carrier , consumer product, environment, financial reform, food security, health insurance reform, motor vehicle safety, nuclear, pipeline, public transport agency, railroad, maritime, securities, taxation, antitrust criminal laws and anti-money laundering. For more information on whistleblower protections, visit the OSHA Whistleblower Protection Programs webpage.

About the Author

Shereen Hashem is the Associate Content Editor for Occupational Health & Safety magazine.

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Sylvia F. Hernandez