Judge orders S.E.M. Villa II to pay back wages to whistleblower
who reported bedbugs at Milford, Ohio, retirement home
CINCINNATI – A federal court has ordered S.E.M. Villa II Inc., a nonprofit corporation that operates S.E.M. Terrace, a retirement facility in Milford, to pay a former resident manager $20,000 in back wages pursuant to a consent judgment and order in a case involving violations of the whistleblower provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. The complaint alleged that the employer terminated the resident manager for filing a complaint with the Clermont County General Health District stating that S.E.M. Villa II had been ineffective in handling a bedbug infestation at the retirement home.
"OSHA is committed to protecting the rights of America's workers, who are penalized or terminated for filing complaints seeking to improve the safety and health of their work environment and those affected by it," said Nick A. Walters, OSHA's regional administrator in Chicago. "A worker should never be at risk of losing their job for reporting health and safety violations and exercising their whistleblower rights."
The manager was dismissed Oct. 5, 2011. Federal Magistrate Judge J. Gregory Wehrman ordered the company to remove all derogatory information related to the dismissal from the worker's employment record and to comply with the Occupational Safety and Health Act in the future. The company must also post a notice for workers regarding their rights under the act.
The department's Regional Office of the Solicitor in Cleveland litigated the case.
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of 22 statutes protecting employees who report violations of various airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, motor vehicle safety, health care reform, nuclear, pipeline, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime and securities laws.
Employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who raise various protected concerns or provide protected information to the employer or 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. More 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.
Editor's note: The U.S. Department of Labor does not release names of employees involved in whistleblower complaints.
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