Judge Orders Postal Service to Pay Damages to Whistleblower

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By Martha Bellisle

SEATTLE (AP) - A federal judge has ordered the U.S. Postal Service to pay a worker almost $230,000 in damages for the retaliation he suffered when he helped a co-worker with her workplace health concerns.

The worker had started with the Postal Service as a mail carrier in 1995 and worked his way up to safety specialist. But in 2008, everything changed and he found himself in a hostile work environment after he advised his co-worker to report her concerns to the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the agency said in a statement.He was transferred to another office, forced to work in an unheated storage room, demoted, publicly humiliated and refused a promotion, the agency said. He filed a whistleblower complaint with OSHA in Seattle, and an investigation confirmed his complaints. The man's name was not released because OSHA does not release the names of whistleblowers.

After a five-day bench trial, U.S. District Judge Ricardo Martinez found that the worker's actions were protected by a federal act that prohibits managers from retaliating against workers.

Martinez said the worker is entitled to $229,228 in damages and said the Postal Service must promote him to the same pay rate he would have now, had he not been denied a promotion. The judge enjoined the Seattle-area Postal Service from discriminating against employees who complain to or cooperate with OSHA, and from failing to take action against managers who interfere with employees exercising their rights under the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

In a statement, the Postal Service said it was disappointed in the ruling and disagrees with the conclusions. The agency said it was "reviewing the decision for possible post-judgment relief and/or appeal."

"This 20-year veteran Postal Service employee is a true hero, and we hope that this court decision will be of some comfort to him for the retribution he suffered and a lesson to those employers, large or small, believing that they can act with impunity and without consequences," said Janet Herold, the Labor Department's regional solicitor in San Francisco.
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