In 2 lawsuits, US Labor Department obtains back wages and corrective
action for Connecticut workers fired for filing OSHA complaints
HARTFORD, Conn. – The U.S. Department of Labor has obtained consent judgments requiring two Connecticut employers to pay back wages and take corrective action on behalf of two workers who the department claims were fired in retaliation for filing complaints alleging unsafe or unhealthful conditions with the department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
The department's regional Office of the Solicitor simultaneously filed complaints and consent judgments in the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut on behalf of a former employee of Parker Medical, an East Bridgewater manufacturer of X-ray devices, and an employee of Scott Bialik, a Brookfield dentist.
On Feb. 17, 2009, the Parker Medical employee filed a complaint with OSHA's Hartford Area Office, which began an inspection on Feb. 19, 2009. Parker Medical discharged the employee the next day. On Jan. 16, 2011, the employee of Bialik's practice filed a complaint with OSHA's Bridgeport Area Office, which contacted Bialik on Jan. 18, 2011. The employee was discharged on Jan. 20, 2011. Both workers filed whistleblower complaints with OSHA following their discharges, and subsequent OSHA investigations found evidence to verify their claims of retaliation.
"Employers must understand that their employees have a legal right to raise workplace safety and health concerns and to file a complaint with OSHA without fear of retaliation or discrimination. Such actions are prohibited under the law," said Michael Felsen, the Labor Department's regional solicitor for New England. "When the department's investigations find merit to workers' complaints of retaliation, we will take all appropriate legal action on behalf of those workers."
The judgments permanently prohibit both employers from discriminating against, restraining or coercing any employee who files a complaint with OSHA, cooperates with an OSHA investigation or exercises any other rights guaranteed under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. Parker Medical has agreed to pay the discharged employee $12,000 in back wages and interest, display the OSHA poster with information about whistleblower rights ¿ in English and Spanish ¿ in its workplace, expunge the employee's personnel record of all references to the situation and provide a neutral job reference. Bialik has agreed to pay his former employee $24,630 in back wages and interest as well as $5,000 in emotional distress damages, display the OSHA poster with information about whistleblower rights ¿ in English and Spanish -- in his workplace, expunge the employee's personnel record and provide a neutral job reference.
"Workers deserve a voice in the workplace. If they are afraid to inform their employers about safety and health issues in their workplaces, their silence masks conditions that could ultimately injure or sicken them and others," said Marthe Kent, OSHA's New England regional administrator.
OSHA enforces the whistleblower 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.
Under these laws enacted by Congress, employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who raise various protected concerns or provide protected information to the employer or to the government. Employees who believe that they have been retaliated against for engaging in protected conduct may file a complaint with the secretary of labor for an investigation by OSHA's Whistleblower Protection Program. Detailed employee rights information is available online at http://www.whistleblowers.gov.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.
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Editor's note: The U.S. Department of Labor does not release the names of employees involved in whistleblower complaints.
Solis v. Parker Medical, Inc. Civil Action Number: 3:12-cv-01377
Solis v. Scott Bialik, D.D.S. Civil Action Number: 3:12-cv-01257
U.S. Department of Labor news materials are accessible at http://www.dol.gov. The information above is available in large print, Braille or CD from the COAST office upon request by calling 202-693-7828 or TTY 202-693-7755.