Whistleblower Fired for Raising Coworker’s Gun Threat Draws Suit

• Worker fired after complaining to the police about potentially violent coworker
• Labor Department sues under whistleblower provisions of OSH Act

A Wisconsin metal finishing company and two managers violated whistleblower protections when they fired an employee who allegedly complained about a potentially violent coworker, the Labor Department said in a lawsuit.

Managers at Adherence Finishing Inc. fired Jason Longfellow, who complained that a colleague, Steven Kunze, had threatened to shoot him during a verbal altercation June 23, 2016, according to the five-page complaint filed by the Labor Department July 2.

Longfellow also allegedly heard Kunze tell employees that he pulled a gun on a person in the past and believed Kunze brought his gun to work and showed his colleagues. The following day, Longfellow reported Kunze’s threat to the St. Croix County Sheriff Office and the Star Prairie Police Department.

Craig Swanson, the general manager of the company, and Scott Swanson, the manager of the company, are named defendants along with Adherence Finishing. A representative from the company declined to comment on the story citing pending litigation. Kunze wasn’t available for comment.

Managers at the New Richmond, Wis., based company learned a day or two after the June 23 incident that Longfellow had reported Kunze’s alleged threatening remarks to law enforcement, according to the complaint. And three days later, managers terminated Longfellow’s employment via a text message from Craig Swanson’s phone on June 27.

Longfellow, who was employed at the shop for three months, claims he was discriminated against when he brought a complaint to law enforcement. The complaint cites Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, the whistleblower provisions, which bar employers from discriminating against workers who raise worker safety or health concerns.

Employees believing they have been discriminated against in violation with section 11(c) of the act, the whistleblower provisions, may file a complaint with the Labor Department withing 30 days of the violations, according to the act.

The Labor Department sued in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin.

The case is Acosta v. Adherence Finishing Co., W.D. Wis., 18-CV-509.

To contact the reporter on this story: Fatima Hussein in Washington at fhussein@bloombergenvironment.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rachael Daigle at rdaigle@bloombergenvironment.com