Construction Foreman Sues Employer for Whistleblower Retaliation

We recently filed a lawsuit on behalf of construction foreman Michael Dodd against his former employer, George Harms Construction Co., Inc. The lawsuit alleges that the company demoted Mr. Dodd and terminated his employment because he blew the whistle on business practices which he believed to be illegal, fraudulent, unethical, and harmful to public safety.

The Complaint in the case of Michael Dodd v. George Harms Construction Co., Inc., MON-L-2582-08, states that in January 2006, Mr. Dodd, a construction supervisor who had worked for the company for over twenty years, told his boss that his fellow foremen were not conducting weekly safety meetings. These foremen were filing false safety meeting reports to document “meetings” which never occurred, according to the Complaint. Mr. Dodd alleges that after he reported this conduct, the company isolated him, demoted him, took away his crew, and assigned him the worst jobs on the site, including picking up garbage.

The Complaint further alleges that in April 2007, Mr. Dodd blew the whistle again, this time about a retaining wall built by the company on Routes 1 and 9 in Elizabeth, New Jersey. Mr. Dodd alleges that he wrote a letter to Chief Executive Officer Tom Hardell stating that he believed the company had intentionally altered the design and structure of the wall, compromising its structural integrity, without the consent or knowledge of the State. The Complaint states that Mr. Dodd also contacted the federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration regarding his claims. According to Mr. Dodd, the company then began an “investigation” which was designed, not to look into and remedy the problem with the wall, but to cover-up its conduct and find grounds to terminate Mr. Dodd’s employment. According to the Complaint, the company terminated Mr. Dodd’s employment at the conclusion of its investigation, finding that Mr. Dodd was “insubordinate,”“highly irresponsible,” “recklessly indifferent to the truth,” “dishonest and disruptive,” and had “lied” about his safety concerns.

Mike Dodd is a hard working man who gave George Harms Construction twenty years of his life. The fact that the company terminated his employment just weeks after he contacted OSHA and reported an allegedly unsafe condition on one of this State’s busiest highways is, in my view, a clear violation of whistleblower protection law.