A long-time employee at a vegetable packing plant was fired after raising safety concerns on behalf of other workers with company management and a government agency. The NLRB issued a complaint alleging the firing was unlawful because the employee’s activity was protected. Prior to a scheduled hearing, the case settled and the employee was reinstated with full backpay for time off work.
Rick F., a storage and retrieval technician at the Dole Fresh Vegetables packing plant, complained to managers and co-workers multiple times about what he said were unsafe conditions that endangered him and other employees. At one point, he called the county health department to report a potentially dangerous situation involving rusted ammonia pipes. Hours after the Health Department disclosed to the company that it was Rick who made the complaint, he was suspended. Two days later, he was fired for allegedly leaving his work post and yelling at a supervisor -- charges that he denied.
Rick contacted the California Labor Commission, which referred him to the NLRB regional office in Oakland, where he filed a charge. After an investigation, the Regional Director determined there was reasonable cause to believe that Rick was fired because of his stated concerns about employee safety, which was protected activity. The Regional Office issued a complaint and called for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge, but the case settled before the hearing, with Rick receiving full backpay of about $20,000 and reinstatement to his former job.
“I believe that when [co-workers] saw me come back, they were relieved in knowing that justice sometimes prevails. I believe it gave the rest of the employees hope,” Rick said.