1. Employees and Employers Covered
The purpose of the Solid Waste Disposal Act (SWDA) is to safeguard the health, welfare, and physical property of people and to protect the environment by controlling the management of solid waste. As determined by the draftors of this Act, it is in the public interest to require hazardous waste to be stored, processed, and disposed of only at permitted hazardous industrial solid waste facilities. The SWDA protects employees from retaliation for reporting abuses of funding and assistance, violations of waste management requirements, or other violations of the Act.
This Act covers employees of agencies, Federal or State, with the authority and responsibility for planning or administration of solid wastes. Whistleblower protection is not offered to any employee, who acting without discretion from his employer deliberately violates any requirement of this chapter.
2. Protected Activities
Pursuant to the SWDA, no person shall fire or discriminate against any employee or authorized representative of employee due to the employee’s actions in providing information to the state or federal government regarding violations of environmental laws, or assisting in proceedings regarding the administration or enforcement of the provisions of this chapter.
3. Proving Your Case
A successful complainant must prove the following by a preponderance of the evidence:
1. The employee engaged in protected activity;
2. The employer knew of the employee’s reporting/protected activity;
3. The employer subjected the employee to unfavorable personnel action; and
4. The employee’s protected activity was a “contributing factor” to the employer’s decision to take unfavorable personnel action against the employee. Complaints are made to the Department of Labor, through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and must be made within 30 days of the adverse employment action.
In order to avoid liability, the employer must demonstrate “clear and convincing evidence” that it would have taken the same unfavorable personnel action against the employee in the absence of the employee’s protected activity.
4. Available Remedies
If an employee’s whistleblower claim is successful, he or she may be entitled to reinstatement with previous seniority and benefits, back pay with interest, and other possible relief including attorneys’ feeds, compensatory and punitive damages.
5. Time to File: 30 days from alleged violation.
If you believe that you have a whistleblower claim under the SWDA, please contact an attorney at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green, located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.