The Washington Post

Former worker wins big DOL settlement

A former Labor Department employee has accepted an $820,000 payment to end his fight against the agency’s decision to fire him after keeping him on paid leave for two years.

Robert Whitmore was placed on leave by Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration for disruptive workplace behavior in July 2007. In the two years before he was fired in 2009, he said he was allowed to do no work, even from home.

“Bob Whitmore paid a real price for trying to protect American workers,” said his lawyer, Robert C. Seldon. “And the Department of Labor ended up paying a much larger price.”

In congressional testimony in 2008, Whitmore said that OSHA allowed  companies to underreport injuries to workers. Earlier that year, he made similar allegations in the Charlotte Observer and on a Bill Moyers PBS program.

The settlement was announced by PEER, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. PEER said Whitmore’s termination followed  Washington Post Federal Diary coverage of his extended suspension.

“As part of the settlement, Whitmore, age 66, agreed not to apply for any Department of Labor position during the next fifteen years,” said a PEER statement, “and if he does ‘he will be deemed automatically ineligible for such position.’ ”

Whitmore’s reacton: “I can’t wait until I’m 81 years old and go back to work,” he said in a telephone interview. “I’m sure the system will be in the same sorry-ass shape that it is today.”

Twitter: @JoeDavidsonWP


Joe Davidson writes the Federal Diary, a column about federal government and workplace issues that celebrated its 80th birthday in November 2012. Davidson previously was an assistant city editor at The Washington Post and a Washington and foreign correspondent with The Wall Street Journal, where he covered federal agencies and political campaigns.



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