Eastern Awning Systems Inc. – a manufacturer of retractable fabric patio awnings based in Watertown, Connecticut – and its owner Stephen P. Lukos must pay $160,000 to two discharged employees who filed safety and health complaints with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), according to the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut.

An OSHA whistleblower investigation found the employer unlawfully fired the two employees because they had filed the complaints. After efforts to resolve the matter without litigation were unsuccessful, the department filed suit against the defendants in November 2015.

In addition to ordering back pay, interest, emotional, and exemplary damages, the consent judgment and order restrains the defendants from discriminating against employees who exercise their rights. The judgment also requires the employer to provide neutral letters of reference for the two discharged employees, and to post the judgment and notice of employees’ rights prominently at the workplace.

“The U.S. Department of Labor will pursue appropriate legal action, as it did in this case, to ensure that employees have the right to a safe and healthful workplace without fear of discrimination or retaliation,” said Regional Solicitor of Labor Maia Fisher.

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“Employers have a responsibility to comply with all applicable requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act of 1970, which includes ensuring employees of their right to voice safety and health concerns, and contact OSHA without retaliation,” said OSHA Regional Administrator Galen Blanton.

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