The Company Fired Jeong for Reporting Unsafe Work Conditions

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State and federal law prohibits an employer from punishing an employee for reporting workplace safety violations. Employers that violate the law may be liable for lost wages, emotional distress, punitive damages and attorney fees

Jeong worked at a retail store in the Silicon Valley.  Among his coworkers were two elderly women.  The owners had a habit of stacking heavy boxes as high as 12 feet in the stockroom without restraints or proper shelving.  The owners also tended to block the electrical box with inventory boxes.  Jeong had worked at the store long before the new owners bought it.  The previous owner had been subject to a CalOSHA inspection.  After the inspection and a citation, that owner tasked Jeong with ensuring the store's observation of workplace safety rules.  Jeong liked this extra responsibility.  But now with the new owners all he could think about was a 40 pound box falling from 12 feet onto one of his five foot tall 68-year-old female coworkers.  The new owners thought he was crazy when he kept complaining about the high stacked boxes and the blocked electrical box.  At one point one owner said "I'm the owner and I make the rules."

Jeong waited a couple of months and secretly filed a complaint with OSHA.  The owners became enraged upon receiving notice of the complaint and decided to sequester all of the employees in the storeroom and question them to learn the identity of the snitch.  They shouted and threatened and said the employees had no right to do it.  They repeatedly accused Jeong who kept denying he filed the complaint.  When Jeong tried to leave, one of the owners blocked his way and said "You're not going anywhere until I figure out who made that complaint."

Jeong then left and the store's manager called him to tell him he need not return to work.  Later the store claimed that he had abandoned his job and no one fired him.

Sean filed suit in Santa Clara County Superior Court and after discovery and investigation was able to settle the suit for an amount equal to approximately two years' salary.

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