The Case of Justified Termination
Minneapolis, MN civil litigation attorney Tony Edwards talks about a case he took on with a successful result.
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After 9/11, Congress enacted certain OSHA protections that were really sounded in anti-terrorism, but one of the things that was relevant to that case was that there’s a law providing that if you terminate someone for reporting an unsafe condition or refusing to engage in unsafe workplace behavior, that person has protections under the OSHA statutes. In this instance, there was a bus driver who was asked to ferry some passengers – this was during the state fair – from a park-and-ride to the state fair, and as they do in those situations, they load the busses pretty full. The bus was loaded consistent with the manufacturer’s weight limits as well as with normal safety practices for transit authorities, but this gentleman refused to drive the bus in the condition it was, and this was sort of the last straw. He was a guy that had a history of various disciplinary issues, and so he was terminated.
He brought suit under that OSHA statue, claiming that he was wrongfully terminated in retaliation for what he considered to be protected conduct, that is refusing to do something that wasn’t safe, and we ended up litigating the case before the federal administrative law judge and ended up getting his case dismissed, because it was clear that he just hadn’t entitled himself to the protections of this law. I guess the point being that while we can all agree that workplace safety is critical and should be protected by statute as it is, there are scenarios in which people wrongfully attempt to rely on those statutes to protect themselves, when in fact they have just been disciplined or terminated in a manner that’s consistent with what any employer would expect. And so there we were able to protect that employer and get a successful outcome and get his case dismissed.