A Highland County government employee who was fired after complaining about unsafe working conditions and wage-and-hour violations is $18,000 richer, following a settlement with the county.
Landfill technician David Caswell was fired in late 2009, allegedly for falsifying work reports and insubordination. But Caswell promptly sued Highland County, claiming that his termination was really retaliation for threatening to blow the whistle on potentially illegal activities at the county’s landfill.
A week before he was fired, Caswell had objected to working alone on a Saturday in the landfill. His job involved processing dangerous chemicals and operating the landfill’s gas flare. Caswell described the work as “extremely dangerous and hazardous.”
At the time, he had also complained that the county required employees to work unpaid overtime when they were on-call to deal with any landfill alarms.
While admitting no wrongdoing, the county agreed to pay the settlement in return for Caswell dropping his suit. A county insurance policy covered the settlement costs.
Note: Remember, one of your fundamental duties as an employer is to provide a safe workplace. Terminating an employee who complains about safety issues can land employers in big trouble with state and federal agencies, including OSHA.