Energy infrastructure company, Kinder Morgan Inc., must pay a former employee back wages, damages, and attorney’s fees after an investigation found the company violated the whistleblower provisions of the Pipeline Safety Improvement Act (PSIA), said officials at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
The employee informed a contractor of Kinder Morgan’s attempt to avoid complying with the PSIA’s spill reporting requirements.
Houston-based Kinder Morgan later insisted the employee retract the statement. When the employee refused, the company terminated the employee on January 3, 2018.
OSHA determined the employee’s actions were protected activity and the discharge violated the employee’s whistleblower protections.
OSHA ordered Kinder Morgan to pay $113,040 in back pay, $30,000 in compensatory damages and $20,552 in attorney’s fees. OSHA also ordered the company to expunge the complainant’s employment record of any reference to exercising whistleblower rights under PSIA; not retaliate or discriminate against the complainant; pay interest on the back pay; and post a notice of OSHA’s finding in a conspicuous place in or about its facility.
Kinder Morgan or the former employee may appeal the order to the Department’s Office of Administrative Law Judges.
“This order recognizes the vital importance of pipeline safety and that federal law protects whistleblowers who engage in protected activity,” said OSHA Dallas acting Regional Administrator Eric S. Harbin.
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the PSIA and more than 20 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of various airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, health care reform, nuclear, pipeline, worker safety, public transportation agency, maritime and securities laws.