Columbia real estate management firm CMM Realty Inc., has reached a settlement with federal regulators, three years after the company was accused of firing an employee who warned about asbestos in an apartment complex.
The case dates back to May 2009. That’s when the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) says a maintenance worker warned about asbestos exposure at the Briargate Condominiums in northwest Columbia. The employee also reported the asbestos to South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control. The agency inspected the property and cited CMM Realty for violating building standards.
That’s when OSHA says the company told the unidentified employee that his services were no longer needed. The employee then filed a complaint with OSHA. The agency investigated the case and ruled CMM and its owner C. Michael Munson had violated the whistleblower provisions of the Clean Air Act. They ordered CMM Realty to reinstate the employee.
The company appealed that order to the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Administrative Law Judges. In 2011, OSHA sued the company in federal court for violating the OSH Act, which forbids companies from retaliating against employees who file a complaint with the agency. The consent judgment announced Tuesday settles both of OSHA’s claims in the matter.
Under the terms of the agreement announced Tuesday, CMM will pay the employee $45,000 and expunge his disciplinary record. Any future prospective employers are supposed to get a neutral reference for this worker. The judgment also requires the company to display posters along with whistleblower protection fact sheets, in English and Spanish at its facilities.
Matt Long contributed to this report.