Dentist to Pay $72,000 to Employees Who Complained
The U.S. Department of Labor has secured a federal court judgment ordering a Region 1 dentist to pay a total of $72,000: $38,000 and $34,000, respectively: to two former employees following a whistle-blower investigation by OSHA.
The case began in 2010 when two dental hygienists started to register concerns with the dentist about what they perceived as lapses in infection control procedures. Attempts to resolve the issues in-house were unsuccessful, and one of the hygienists filed a complaint with OSHA. OSHA opened an inspection on Oct. 4, 2011. The dentist fired one of the employees on Oct. 18, and placed the other on probation, leading to her resignation.
This judgment upholds the clear legal right under the OSH Act for employees to raise workplace safety and health concerns to their employers without fear of termination or other forms of reprisal, says OSHA. Firing or forcing employees from their jobs for raising legitimate safety and health issues is unacceptable.
The judgment requires the dentist to make the payments in monthly installments and provide proof of payment to OSHA, expunge all references to the matter from the former employees’ personnel records and provide a written, neutral confirmation of employment if another prospective employer requests a job reference for either worker.
The dentist will also post at the workplace an OSHA poster concerning rights and obligations under the OSH Act and provide all employees with the OSHA “Your Rights as a Whistle-blower” fact sheet. Finally, the dentist agrees not to pursue a number of collateral actions already initiated, which had the potential to significantly impact the livelihood and economic well-being of one of the complainants. In the settlement, the dentist neither admits nor denies the allegations in the department’s complaint.
OSHA enforces the whistle-blower provisions of the OSH Act and 21 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of various airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, health care reform, nuclear, pipeline, public transportation agency, maritime, and securities laws.
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