Department of Labor Sues Postal Service Over Seattle Whistleblower

An investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) confirmed allegations that the Postal Service discriminated and retaliated against a Seattle employee who helped a co-worker file a safety complaint. The Department of Labor is now in the rare situation of suing the Postal Service for violating federal whistleblower protection laws.

The whistleblower in question is a safety specialist at the Post Office's Seattle Process and Distribution Center in Tukwila. The specialist (unnamed under whistleblower protection status) helped a co-worker file a safety complaint for "unhealthful conditions." He was repeatedly reprimanded for giving the advice. Then the Postal Service transferred him to an office, gave his work to somebody on a lower pay-grade, and blocked him from getting a promotion, admitting he was qualified but they didn't like him interacting with OSHA.

OSHA's Regional Administrator, Dean Ikeda said that in the past four years they have received 24 complaints but this is only the second time they have filed a lawsuit against the Postal Service. Of those 24 complaints, Ikeda said half were dismissed without merit but a handful were settled out of court. "In this case we found merit and (the Postal Service) refused to settle out of court." The Postal Service chose not to comment for this story.

Ikeda said the number of Postal Service employee complaints OSHA receives is representative of the country: "This is something we take very seriously. Hostility and retaliation against whistleblowers are simply unacceptable."

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