The U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York has ordered a Ransomville, N.Y., tool manufacturer and its president to pay two workers a total of $35,800 in back wages and $10,500 in punitive damages for terminating them from their jobs after the men filed a complaint with the U.S. Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

The order, signed Feb. 8, by Chief Judge Richard J. Acara, requires defendants V.R.K. Manufacturing and Tools Co. Inc. and company president Roman Klur to make payment within 60 days and permanently prohibits them from violating the anti-retaliation provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

"No worker should be fired, penalized or discriminated against for voicing workplace safety and health concerns," said Patricia K. Clark, OSHA's regional administrator. "This decision reaffirms that basic right as well as the Labor Department's commitment to taking appropriate and aggressive steps to enforce the law. The awarding of punitive damages is significant, since they can help deter future discrimination by this or other employers."

Two employees of V.R.K. Manufacturing and Tools were fired on May 3, 2003, one week after filing a complaint with OSHA about safety and health issues at their workplace. The workers then filed a whistleblower complaint with OSHA, alleging they were discriminated against for exercising the rights granted them under the OSH Act.

OSHA's investigation found merit in the complaint and the agency sought reinstatement, back pay and benefits for the workers. When the employer repeatedly refused to settle the matter, the U.S. Labor Department filed suit in federal court to enforce the findings.

Information about employees' rights and employers' responsibilities under the whistleblower provisions of the OSH Act and other statutes enforced by OSHA may be found on the agency's Web site at http://www.osha.gov/dep/oia/whistleblower/index.html.