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USPS to pay $141K after firing worker for reporting an injury, judge rules

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Dive Brief:

  • The U.S. Postal Service violated the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 when it fired a probationary worker in retaliation for reporting a workplace injury, a district judge held May 10 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon. 
  • The worker, a city carrier assistant, suffered a calf strain after climbing into the back of a vehicle to fix fallen mail trays, according to court documents. USPS then fired the worker for not using a boat hook to fix the trays instead, per court documents. 
  • U.S. District Judge Adrienne Nelson ordered USPS to pay the worker $141,307.50 for economic and emotional distress damages, and to expunge the worker’s record and state in her file that she is eligible for rehire, after the findings of a two-day court trial in April. USPS could not immediately be reached for comment.

Dive Insight:

Section 11(c) of the OSH Act prohibits employers from retaliating against employees for filing a health or safety complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration or reporting a work-related injury or illness. 

The worker was fired within 21 days of reporting her injury and 11 days before the end of her probationary period, per court documents. USPS also failed to train the employee on how to find or use a boat hook, the judge said. 

Jared Klein, who has worked as a whistleblower investigator for OSHA since 2016 and investigated the case in question, testified during that trial that USPS “has a pattern of retaliating against probationary employees who report workplace injuries.” Klein said he knows of at least six similar complaints against USPS that are being litigated at the federal level. 

Acting Secretary of Labor Julie Su brought the case against USPS after the worker filed a complaint with OSHA, and OSHA concluded USPS had violated the OSH Act, per court documents.

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