BOSTON – Donald Pottern, owner of Crown Furniture, a retail store in West Springfield, MA, has been sued by the U.S. Department of Labor for allegedly firing a worker who filed a safety complaint with the department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Crown Furniture Owner Sued Over OSHA Whistleblower ComplaintAccording to the complaint, the former employee contacted OSHA on May 9, 2011, alleging safety and health hazards in the basement of Crown Furniture, including the presence of asbestos, mold and rodents. On May 11, 2011, Pottern fired the employee after he asked him why he filed the complaint.

The department's lawsuit seeks a judgment supporting that Pottern released the employee in retaliation for filing an OSHA complaint and permanently prohibits him from illegally retaliating against employees in the future. The former employee filed a whistleblower complaint with OSHA, which investigated and found merit to the complaint.

"The Occupational Safety and Health Act gives the department the authority to file suit against employers that take action against employees in this manner,” said Christine Eskilson, deputy regional solicitor of labor for New England. “The department will not hesitate to act when the case warrants."

The lawsuit pursues payment of more than $20,000 in lost wages to the employee, plus interest, as well as payment of compensatory and/or punitive damages and posting of a nondiscrimination notice at the workplace.

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