Asbestos Whistleblower Wins in New York Court
A man who reported improper asbestos-related work practices at a school project in upstate New York has had his day and court…and has won.
An Albany, New York judge and jury found in favor of Donald Miles, a former employee at Champagne Demolition LLC, who blew the whistle during a job in Gloversville, NY, where he was ordered to participate in improper removal of hazardous asbestos at a school location in that town.
The jury awarded Miles nearly $174,000 including $103,000 in back wages, $20,000 in compensatory damages, and $50,000 in punitive damages.
The amounts were reported in a statement made by OSHA to the press late last week.
The incident occurred more than 7 years ago in 2010, when Miles went to company management and expressed his concerns about improper abatement methods being used at the work site.
As a result, he was fired from his job the next day, and then – according to Miles – was subjected to verbal threats as well as legal action.
He then filed a complaint with OSHA. As such, the agency opened a “whistleblower” investigation and found that Miles’ allegations were sound and chose to take action against owner Joseph Champagne and his company.
“We are pleased with the jury verdict and the judge’s ruling to hold this employer accountable for violating the employee’s rights,” OSHA Regional Administrator Robert Kulick in New York, said in a statement. “Every worker has the right to report potential safety and health hazards without fear of harassment, termination or retaliation.”
Miles’ situation as an asbestos whistleblower is, sadly, not one-of-a-kind.
Often, employees who prefer to “do the right thing” rather than go along with improper work practices – regardless of their field – are tormented in one way or another and often lose their jobs.
Where asbestos is concerned, some companies cut corners rather than practice proper removal simply to save money on man hours and to skirt proper disposal laws as well.
When that is the case, employees are often unnecessarily exposed to damaged asbestos materials, which can result in inhalation of fibers.
Not only employees but also anyone else in the vicinity of improperly handled asbestos might be exposed without even knowing they are in danger.
That’s because asbestos fibers easily permeate the air, so anyone on that school property at the time may have been a victim of asbestos exposure.
Hence, Miles did what was necessary to protect not only himself and his fellow workers but also others. Thankfully, in this case, his actions were rewarded.
Unfortunately, however, some employees are too concerned about losing their job to report wrongdoings and, as a result, asbestos exposure happens and lives are put at risk.