Worker, BP settle employment lawsuit

Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2013 3:55 PM

A lawsuit filed last year by a Durango man, who said BP falsely accused him of drinking on the job, has been settled out of court.

The lawsuit filed by Larry Holland, a former contract worker for BP, accused the gas-and-oil giant of wrongful termination. He was seeking $4 million.

Terms of the settlement have not been made public. Both parties declined to comment about the resolution.

“The only thing I can tell you is it has been amicably resolved,” said Lynn Sholler, Durango lawyer for Holland.

A lawyer for BP did not return a phone call this week seeking comment.

A spokeswoman for the company did not immediately return a phone call Wednesday afternoon.

In his complaint, Holland said that in retaliation for his reporting of a safety violation, the company falsely accused him of drinking and fired him.

Holland worked for Grand Junction-based Pure Automation Inc., a contractor for BP. But a motion filed by his defense lawyer said he more or less worked as a BP employee.

He worked nearly full-time for BP; was provided workspace at BP with his name on the wall; was issued a BP identification card, phone number, Internet address and mail slot; and was required to abide by the company’s code of conduct.

According to his lawsuit, an equipment operator and person in charge answered a cellphone Oct. 27, 2011, in a “hot work-permit area” – a compressor site where a leak had occurred – in violation of BP’s safety policies.

Holland and another colleague turned in a safety-violation report. A BP manager said, “Are you sure you want to do this? There will be repercussions. Your guys will be put in the line of fire. The guys upstairs will not be happy,” according to the lawsuit.

A few months later, a BP employee claimed he smelled alcohol on Holland’s breath. A contract worker seemed to corroborate the allegation by saying he saw Holland drinking beer at Steamworks Brewing Co.

The employee didn’t report the alleged violation for two days, making it impossible for BP officials to test him for alcohol use. Failing to report the alleged incident in a timely manner also violated company policy. And it didn’t afford Holland a chance to defend himself, according to court filings.

An internal BP investigation revealed that the contract worker who claimed to have seen Holland drinking beer at Steamworks never saw him with alcohol; he only saw Holland sitting at the bar, according to case exhibits.

Holland was fired and globally banned from working for all BP companies and groups three days after the reported alcohol violation.

Holland holds a rare work certification that puts him in a class of only 250 other people worldwide who are similarly qualified to do his line of work.

As a result of the termination, Holland has suffered financial and emotional damages, according to his lawsuit.

The case was formally dismissed May 1, about two months before the case was scheduled to go to trial.