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Lawsuit filed against Jackson Specialty Steel for unlawful termination

The United State Department of Labor recently filed a civil suit against a North Jackson, Ohio manufacturer that it alleges illegally fired one of their workers because that person voiced his opinion about hazardous working conditions at its plant.

Filed in the Youngstown United States District Court, the claim alleges that overseers for North Jackson Specialty Steel violated several provisions put into place by OSHA in its Occupational Safety & Health Act of 1970. That act made it unlawful to terminate the employment of or discriminate against a worker who filed complaints about unsafe working conditions. 

The lawsuit alleges that administrators for Jackson Specialty Steel on South Bailey Road terminated the employment of a man 2012 less than a week after he complained to supervisors that he and one of his coworkers were being forced to expose themselves to potentially life-threatening conditions due to a safety feature that controlled the temperature of a furnace being disabled. The man and his coworker were given duties to operate a multi-ton vacuum induction melt oven starting in June of 2012.

According to the complaint, there were supposed to be three men using the equipment, but that the third person was unable to assist them because he had recently been suspended. As a result, the workers who were operating the machine were unable to monitor all components of the machine. Eventually, the man realized the machine was overheating at a dangerous rate. He turned the machine off and took a picture of the oven's temperature. He then called his supervisor at her home. In addition, he used his radio to tell other workers who were working around the furnace to leave the area immediately for fear of a possible explosion.

The man says that despite the phone call to his supervisor, she ordered him to turn the machine back on so that the alloy being produced inside of it would not be wasted. The man did as he was told, but the oven overheated again and eventually broke down on its own. According to the man, his supervisor told him that the safety features on the machine that control the components' temperature was intentionally turned off.

After learning this, the man complained to that supervisor and others that they had placed him and his coworkers in harm's way by not telling them about the dangers of the machine since it had its safety feature turned off. Four days later, he was fired. When asking for a reason, he was told that he was fired because he failed to watch the operating temperature of the oven, which led to loss of production and the breaking of the machine.

Days later, the man filed a complaint with OSHA and told the organization that he felt he was fired because he complained about the working conditions. After an investigation, OSHA decided that man acted within his rights, but was fired anyway. Specialty Steel has still not addressed the lawsuit.

Source: WFMJ, "OSHA sues North Jackson company for firing employee who raised safety concerns" 23 September 2014

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