US Department of Labor files complaint against Niles Family Dentistry,
owner in Niles, Ohio, for violating whistleblower provision of the OSH Act
CLEVELAND – The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has filed a complaint in federal court against Niles Family Dentistry and owner Dr. A. Scott Santucci for allegedly violating the whistleblower provision of the Occupational Safety and Health Act by creating a hostile work environment for two employees and forcing them to resign. Santucci harassed the two employees because he suspected them of reporting mercury spills at the dental practice to OSHA on June 6, 2010. The spills occurred on June 2 and 4.
"Failing to protect workers from known hazardous substances such as mercury is inexcusable," said Michael Connors, OSHA's regional administrator in Chicago. "Taking retaliatory action against employees for reporting safety concerns is a clear violation of the law."
Santucci is alleged to have reduced working hours and created a hostile work environment by repeatedly cursing and threatening a dental auxiliary employee who had refused to work until the mercury spills were adequately cleaned by qualified personnel. The employee worked at the dental practice from August 2007 until she resigned on June 24, 2010, citing a hostile work environment.
Santucci also is alleged to have reduced working hours and created a hostile work environment by repeatedly cursing and threatening a second worker after she refused to clean the spilled mercury. The second worker was employed by the dental practice from April 2005 until she resigned on June 21, 2010, also citing a hostile work environment.
The Labor Department is seeking reinstatement of both employees to their positions; payment of lost wages and benefits, including interest and punitive damages; and expunction of any mention of that protected activity from their employment records. OSHA also is seeking to require the dental office to post a notice to employees stating they it will not discriminate against employees for engaging in protected activities such as OSHA notification. The suit further seeks to enjoin Niles Family Dentistry and Santucci from violating the Occupational and Safety Health Act in the future.
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of 21 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, railroad, 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 information on employee whistleblower rights, including fact sheets, 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.
U.S. Department of Labor news materials are accessible at http://www.dol.gov. The information above is available in large print, Braille, audio tape or disc from the COAST office upon request by calling 202-693-7828 or TTY 202-693-7755.