Rockland company to pay fine, compensation over firing whistleblower

Posted Dec. 04, 2013, at 4:13 p.m.

ROCKLAND, Maine — Ferraiolo Construction Inc. has agreed to a settlement with the federal government for firing a worker who had complained of safety problems at its stone crushing plant in Thomaston.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration announced the settlement on Tuesday. The company will pay a $10,000 fine and pay the former worker — that the agency is not identifying — $6,000 in back wages.

The former worker, a general laborer at the Ferraiolo’s Portable Pioneer Plant, filed a complaint with the mine safety agency in November 2011, saying he had been fired in September 2011 in retaliation for raising issues of safety. One of the safety problems reported by the former worker was the lack of safety guards around the generator at the stone crushing facility.

When the mine safety administration filed the complaint in May 2012 it initially announced it was seeking to have the company pay a fine of $20,000 and rehire the worker.

“Every miner has the right under the Mine Act to identify hazardous conditions and refuse unsafe work without fear of discrimination or retaliation,” said Joseph Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health in a news release. “Retaliating against employees who raise safety concerns can have serious consequences for miners’ safety and health if such retaliation intimidates them into remaining silent about hazards.”

Administrative Law Judge Patricia M. Rae has now approved a settlement, which requires the defendants to: pay the wages lost on account of the discharge, expunge from their records any reference to the complainant’s termination, provide a neutral reference in response to any third-party inquiries about the complainant, post a notice at the workplace that describes employees’ whistleblower rights, and refrain from discriminating against employees in the future.

The former employee found another job and no longer sought reinstatement, according to Ted Fitzgerald, the regional director for public affairs with the department of labor. He said the $20,000 fine that had originally been sought was the maximum and in the end, the amount was reduced to $10,000.

The department does not release the names of people in whistleblower cases, Fitzgerald said.

Company treasurer John Ferraiolo said Wednesday that he had no comment other than what was included in the news release.

Ferraiolo Construction has faced a turbulent time during the past year including a bankruptcy filing, a reorganization, and the sale of many of properties and equipment.

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