The U.S. Department of Labor has entered into a settlement agreement with Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. in Mount Pleasant, Texas, to resolve allegations that the company terminated an employee who raised environmental complaints, in violation of the whistleblower provision of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration said it initiated an investigation upon receiving a complaint from a manager for water reclamation at the company’s chicken processing plant who had alerted the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality when process and storm water containing excessive amounts of chromium, lead and mercury were discharged into the environment.
According to the complainant, Pilgrim’s Pride stated that the TCEQ did not need to be notified and that sharing the information was not in the company’s best interest, and consequently terminated the complainant’s employment.
Prior to OSHA issuing its investigative findings, the parties reached an agreement in which the employer will pay the complainant $50,000.
Pilgrim’s Pride also has agreed to post a notice to employees advising them of their whistleblower rights, purge any derogatory information in the employee’s personnel file directly related to the incident and provide a neutral job reference. In exchange, the employee will not seek reinstatement.
Any employee who believes he or she has been retaliated against for engaging in protected conduct may file a complaint with the secretary of labor for an investigation by OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program.
The U.S. Department of Labor does not release names of employees involved in whistleblower complaints.