OSHA, Pilgrim’s settle whistleblower case
MOUNT PLEASANT, Texas – Greeley, Colo.-based Pilgrim’s Pride has entered into a settlement agreement with the US Department of Labor following an investigation by the department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) into the company’s termination of an employee who raised environmental complaints.
The parties reached an agreement before OSHA issued its investigative findings. Pilgrim's will pay the former manager $50,000. Pilgrim's Pride also has agreed to post a notice to employees advising them of their whistleblower rights, purge any derogatory information in the employee's personnel file directly related to the incident and provide a neutral job reference. In exchange, the employee will not seek reinstatement, OSHA said.
OSHA began investigating the company after receiving a complaint from a manager for water reclamation at a Pilgrim's chicken processing plant in Mount Pleasant. The manager had alerted the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) when process and storm water containing excessive amounts of chromium, lead and mercury were discharged into the environment, OSHA said. According to the complainant, Pilgrim's Pride said the TCEQ did not need to be notified and that sharing the information was not in the company's best interest. The manager was consequently fired, according to the agency.