Gov't Sues Paper Maker that Fired Whistleblower

An employee suffered a hand injury after repeated requests for safety equipment were denied.

The U.S. Department of Labor is suing a Pennsylvania paper products maker and its owner after the company fired a worker who raised safety concerns.

The DOL said that an OSHA compliance officer conducted a safety inspection at Midvale Paper Box in October 2017 in response to a complaint, which alleged that the company failed to provide personal protective equipment and made employees un-jam shredding and baling machines without implementing required lockout/tagout procedures.

According to the department, an employee asked a supervisor several times for safety gloves to operate a shredder and baler, but was denied. That employee then suffered a hand injury while operating the machine — and asked for gloves two more times after the injury and was still denied each time.

The DOL said Midvale later fired the worker in retaliation for requesting the gloves, taking part in OSHA’s investigation, and a “mistaken belief that the worker filed the safety complaint that initiated the investigation.”

Midvale is contesting the citations issued following that 2017 inspection, for which OSHA proposed a penalty exceeding $200,000 for nine workplace safety violations, including one serious, two willful and six repeat violations.

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