AUSTIN (KXAN) — A U.S. district court is ordering an Austin luxury car dealership to pay an employee $15,000 in damages after they were allegedly fired over raising COVID-19 safety concerns.
Hi Tech Imports LLC — operating as Porsche Austin — is required to pay the employee damages after they had been fired within an hour of alerting their coworkers that another coworker had tested positive for COVID.
This happened in December 2020, when the employee alerted Porsche Austin’s management that a coworker tested positive for COVID-19 and asked if management could notify other employees of their exposure risk, according to a press release from the U.S. Department of Labor.
After the dealership didn’t do anything, the employee emailed all company employees about the COVID case and potential hazards, the release said.
The employee was fired less than an hour later, according to the release.
Last July, the Department of Labor negotiated an agreement that required the company to pay the employee $116,231 in back pay and reinstate them to their previous position.
The action follows a lawsuit filed by the Department of Labor in October 2021 and a federal whistleblower investigation by the department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
The agency found the dealership illegally retaliated against the employee in December 2020, violating whistleblower protections of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.
The dealership is now also forbidden from discriminating against their employees when they raise workplace safety concerns.