US Department of Labor orders Lansing chemical manufacturer to reinstate, compensate whistleblower


FILE – In this May 7, 2020, file photo, the entrance to the Labor Department is seen near the Capitol in Washington. Unemployment fraud in the U.S. has reached dramatic levels during the pandemic: more than $63 billion has been paid out improperly through fraud or errors since March 2020. Criminals are seizing on the opportunity created by the pandemic and are making false claims using stolen information. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – The US Department of Labor is ordering Equistar Chemicals L.P. (a subsidiary of LyondellBasell) in Lansing to reinstate an employee who raised objections to the company’s accounting practices that they believed was illegal.

The Department is also ordering the company to pay the accountant $764,444 in back wages, interest and damages.

After expressing concern, the accountant was placed on an improvement plan and was subsequently fired.

A U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigation determined the accountant’s placement on the performance improvement plan and dismissal by Equistar was due to their whistleblowing, which is protected under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, a federal law that protects investors from fraudulent financial reporting by corporations.

In addition to its findings, OSHA has ordered LyondellBasell to reinstate the account manager and pay $518,189 in lost wages and $145,293 in lost benefits. OSHA also ordered the employer to pay an estimated $50,962 in interest on the back wages, $50,000 in compensatory damages and applicable attorney’s fees.

LyondellBasell must also expunge the account manager’s personnel record of any adverse information related to the whistleblower complaint.

“We commend this worker for bravely exercising their rights and reporting workplace misconduct,” said OSHA Acting Regional Administrator William Donovan in Chicago. “This employee’s concerns were protected by federal laws and well-known by management who took illegal actions by retaliating against them.”

Based in the Netherlands with U.S. headquarters in Houston, LyondellBasell is one of the world’s largest plastics, chemicals and refining companies. The company is publicly traded.

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