Austin, TX (Law Firm Newswire) February 10, 2014 – A Texan whistleblower alleges he was the victim of retaliation after telling federal investigators about his accident on-the-job.
“This is not an unusual case, but it does serve to point out the many issues workers face in Texas,” indicates Austin workplace injury lawyer, Brooks Schuelke, Perlmutter & Schuelke, LLP, who is not involved in the case. “The 19-year-old Honduran worker was on a construction site in downtown Austin, when a load of steel fell from a crane. He was hit in the back by the rebar at a high-rise complex at Seventh and Rio Grande. He was not the only person injured.”
The Workers Defense Project called the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OHSA) and reported the accident, discovering in the process that no one at the man’s place of employment had called them about the accident. One day after the injured worker spoke to OHSA investigators, he was fired. However, whether he was fired or quit is in dispute.
“According to the employer, the worker quit the day after he spoke to OHSA officials in response to allegations by co-workers about his inappropriate behavior while on-the-job. There was no further explanation forthcoming,” Schuelke added. “So, in any lawsuit filed, this becomes a matter of who said and did what that needs to be proven.” The company further indicated that they did not discourage anyone from speaking to the OHSA and that they fully cooperate with them in regard to any workplace accidents.
The Workers Defense Project does not believe the version of events that the employer insists happened and is seeking re-employment for the worker and an apology for firing him a day after he talked to investigators. Their main issue is pro-business laws and a lack of worker protection regulations that result in Texas being built on the backs of workers who are treated as being disposable.
“Federal law prohibits discrimination against any worker who reports safety violations in the workplace,” says Schuelke. “ But, there are no state laws that say it is illegal to fire whistleblowers.”
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that Texas construction workers killed on-the-job rose by over 20 percent in 2012, which placed Texas in the unenviable position of having 531 deaths, with at least 105 directly attributable to workplace accidents. Although the employer and subcontractor involved in this case do carry workers’ compensation, many other companies do not. “This means injured workers do not have much of a safety net if they are seriously injured or killed,” adds Schuelke.
Learn more at http://www.civtrial.com
Perlmutter & Schuelke, LLP
206 East 9th Street, Ste. 1511
Austin, TX 78701
Call (512) 476-4944
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