DOL acts on two separate whistleblower cases
On July 15 and 16, the US Department of Labor (DOL) issued press releases announcing two recent decisions regarding whistleblowers and retaliation. DOL Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) aims to “ensure safe and healthy working conditions for workers” and OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program enforces the whistleblower provisions of 25 whistleblower statuses.
Marty Walsh, Secretary of DOL, will speak at the National Whistleblower Center virtual event celebrating National Whistleblower Day 2021. The event will take place July 28-30 and will celebrate whistleblowers from around the world, as well as information panels with whistleblowers and experts : RSVP for the event here.
Lawsuit against Roger H. Bohannan DDS Inc.
The 15th of July Press release Says DOL has filed a lawsuit against two North Texas dentists “on behalf of a dental hygienist and dental assistant who have not been reinstated” after expressing concerns about coronavirus safety measures that would be instituted “when the practice reopens in the spring of 2020.” DOL filed a lawsuit in US District Court for the North District of Texas, Fort Worth Division.
According to the press release, Roger Bohannan and David Bohannan, owners of Roger H. Bohannan DDS Inc., put their employees on leave in March and April 2020. This was in response to Texas’ ban on “dental procedures. specific to the height of the pandemic. The press release states, “While on leave, the two employees asked what safety measures would be in place once the patients and employees returned. After receiving a call to return to work, the employer did not reinstated the hygienist after citing guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Upon returning to the office, “[t]The dental assistant was contacted to be rehired, but the employer canceled the offer after the assistant asked what security measures were in place for their protection, ”the statement read. All other employees were reinstated after the end of the leave. An OSHA investigation found that Bohannan Dentistry “discriminated against employees for exercising their rights under Section 11 (c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and for engaging in the protected activity of making a good faith health and safety complaint “.
“Bohannan Dentistry violated the rights of employees by firing them for reporting concerns about unsafe working conditions,” said OSHA regional administrator Eric S. Harbin in Dallas. “Workers shouldn’t be afraid of losing their jobs because they raise workplace safety issues. The Ministry of Labor will continue to vigorously enforce these protections. “
The lawsuit orders Bohannan Dentistry to pay the plaintiff damages, “plus interest, for all past and future lost wages and benefits resulting from the termination,” among other forms of damages. The DOL is also asking the court to order the practice to “publish a notice to employees stating that defendants will not discriminate against an employee for engaging in activities protected by section 11 (c ) of the OSH Act ”.
Settlement with Advanced Disposal Services Solid Waste Midwest LLC
July 16, DOL announcement that a federal court approved the settlement of an OSHA whistleblower investigation that found that an Illinois-based waste management company “violated federal law when it retaliated against a former truck driver who reported an injury on the job and voiced concerns to the company that an unrepaired truck was unsafe to operate. “
As part of the settlement, the whistleblower is to receive $ 95,000 in lost wages from Advanced Disposal Services Solid Waste Midwest LLC. The company will also “provide potential employers with a neutral job recommendation” for the whistleblower and include a copy of the court order in the employee’s personnel file. In addition, the company “will post a notice of whistleblower rights in a common area of its Northbrook facility.” The press release states that “the company has denied any wrongdoing.”
The judgment and consent order were issued by U.S. District Court Judge Manish S. Shah in the Northern District of Illinois. The action “follows an OSHA investigation which found that after the driver of the truck raised concerns about a vehicle’s safety risks, a company director attributed the vehicle to another driver ”. According to the statement, the director then assigned the driver of the truck “to a vehicle with which he was not familiar”. While driving the vehicle, “the driver injured his finger and needed light work to recover,” after which “a company investigation blamed the driver for the injury.” The press release says the company subsequently terminated the driver’s employment “after management suspected them of reporting unsafe working conditions to the company hotline.”
OSHA ruled that the truck driver’s dismissal was an act of retaliation “for their protected activities under the protection of whistleblowers. Section 11 (c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. “After the investigation, OSHA” filed a lawsuit in federal court to seek compensation from the driver for unlawful dismissal. “
“We applaud this worker for standing up for his rights after sustaining an injury and for reporting workplace safety hazards that could injure other workers,” said Acting Regional OSHA Administrator, William Donovan in Chicago. “Federal whistleblower laws protect workers from retaliation for reporting injuries and unsafe working conditions. “
Read more information about OSHA whistleblowers at WNN here.