The U.S. Department of Labor has filed a lawsuit against carbon fiber maker Zoltek Corp., saying it wrongly fired a whisteblower for reporting unsafe conditions at a Missouri factory.
The lawsuit said Bridgeton, Mo.-based Zoltek fired the production operator in April 2019 after he brought safety concerns about the company's St. Peters facility to management, then to an outside auditor reviewing safety issues and finally to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
In a March 25 news release, the agency said it filed the lawsuit March 9 in U.S. District Court in St. Louis.
The suit seeks back wages, reinstatement and damages for the employee, and a court order instructing the company to post a notice regarding employees' rights to report unsafe working conditions without fear of retaliation.
The lawsuit says the employee was suspended one day after reporting concerns to a third-party auditor. The worker then filed a complaint with OSHA and after his 14-day suspension from work was completed, the company fired him, DOL said.
"OSHA's Whistleblower Protection Program guarantees employees the right to speak out when they believe their safety and health is in jeopardy," said OSHA Regional Administrator Kimberly Stille, in the agency's Kansas City, Mo., office. OSHA is part of the Department of Labor.
The company did not respond to a request for comment but DOL said in its release that Zoltek disputes the government's allegations.
The DOL news release and its lawsuit did not give details on the safety concerns the employee raised.