AUSTIN, Texas — An Austin Porsche dealership, run by Hi Tech Imports LLC, has been ordered to pay $15,000 in damages to a former employee after the employee was fired after informing coworkers of a fellow employee's positive COVID-19 test.
According to a release from the U.S. Department of Labor, the employee informed management of a fellow employee's positive COVID-19 test and requested that management make other employees aware of the risk of their potential exposure.
The dealership then failed to act, prompting the employee to inform every other employee about the potential risk. Within one hour, the employee was fired.
On March 20, the Department of Labor obtained a consent judgment in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, Austin Division, which requires Hi Tech Imports LLC to pay the employee $15,000 in compensatory damages.
The court is also forbidding the dealership from punishing its employees when they raise workplace safety concerns.
The motion follows a lawsuit filed by the department in October 2021 and a federal whistleblower investigation by the department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The agency found the dealership illegally retaliated against the employee in December 2020, violating whistleblower protections of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.
“Retaliating against employees who report workplace safety and health concerns is illegal,” said OSHA Regional Administrator Eric S. Harbin in Dallas. “In this case, an employee raised legitimate concerns about a potential coronavirus hazard at the car dealership where they worked. Such good faith alerts others to possible risks and makes workplaces safer.”