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Tuesday, October 15, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Department of Labor files complaint after whistleblower firing at Clearwater Paper

The U.S. Department of Labor has filed a whistleblower complaint against Clearwater Paper Corp. for allegedly firing a worker who raised concerns about excessive sawdust exposure.

The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court, seeks to reinstate the employee and award more than $300,000 in back pay and damages.

According to the complaint, the employee was fired in 2010 after filing a safety complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in Boise. The complaint said the employee lost his job shortly after an OSHA inspection to evaluate workers’ exposure to cedar sawdust at the Lewiston mill, which the company has since sold.

“We disagree with the complaint and the conclusion and we will vigorously fight this in federal district court,” said Matt Van Vleet, a Clearwater spokesman.

Van Vleet said the employee was fired for work performance issues. The termination went to arbitration, and the arbitrator found that Clearwater had just cause to fire the employee, he said.

“Clearwater Paper encourages our employees to speak up and speak out about safety and health concerns,” he said.

The inspection did not find that the sawdust levels posed a health risk, Van Vleet said.

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