The Maine Employee Rights Group is currently representing a whistleblower in a lawsuit against Praxair, Inc., one of its subsidiaries, and a company it acquired named Sermatech International. The whistleblower, Roger Lehoux, worked for Sermatech in Biddeford before Praxair acquired it.
While employed at Sermatech, Mr. Lehoux worked on the airplane parts that the company manufactured. His job was plasma sprayer. Mr. Lehoux repeatedly complained about management cutting corners to increase production at the expense of safety. For instance, he opposed the practice of cutting pieces off of blasting cabinets to increase production. Silica dust leaked out of the blasting cabinets because these pieces were cut off of them. Employees had to inhale this dust and it also collected on the airplane parts. Due to the dust, the anti-corrosive paint did not properly adhere to the parts. Through its corner cutting, the company put employee health in danger, violated OSHA regulations, and violated FAA regulations.
The lawsuit alleges that Sermatech fired Mr. Lehoux because of his repeated complaints about the company’s unlawful and unsafe practices. Sermatech claimed that it “laid off” Mr. Lehoux due to lack of work. This alleged layoff resulted in one person losing his job–Mr. Lehoux. The “layoff” occurred less than 2 weeks after Mr. Lehoux spoke up about his safety concerns during a training session held to address the fact that some airplane parts were failing inspection and being sent back to the company. Sermatech’s claim that there was a lack of work was not true. At the time of his “layoff” there was a back log of work in Mr. Lehoux’s department and employees from other areas in the facility had to come in to help out because of the back log.
After it fired him, Mr. Lehoux filed a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). An OSHA investigator went to the Biddeford facility and found four “serious” violations of employee health and safety regulations. He also found that some of the unsafe corner cutting Mr. Lehoux complained about was still ongoing.