HARTFORD, CONN — Two Connecticut workers who were allegedly fired for reporting safety and health concerns to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will receive back wages and interest from their previous employers.
OSHA obtained consent judgments from Connecticut’s U.S. District Court requiring the employers – Parker Medical Inc., a maker of x-ray imaging components, and a Brookfield, Conn-based dentist – to compensate the terminated employees and take other corrective actions.
On Feb. 17, 2009, the Parker Medical employee filed a complaint with OSHA’s Hartford Office, which began an inspection two days later. Parker Medical terminated the employee the next day.
On Jan. 16, 2011, the employee of the Brookfield dentist office filed a complaint with OSHA’s Bridgeport Office, which contacted the dentist on Jan. 18, 2011. The employee was discharged two days later.
Both employees filed whistleblower complaints with OSHA following their termination, and subsequent OSHA investigations found evidence to verify their retaliation claims.
“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 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 protected under the Occupational Safety and Health Act.
Parker Medical agreed to pay the discharged employee $12,000 in back wages and interest, display an OSHA poster with information about whistleblower rights in its workplace, clear the employee’s personnel record of all references to the situation, and provide a neutral job reference.
Likewise, the dentist agreed to pay his former employee $24,630 in back wages and interest as well as $5,000 in emotional distress damages, and take the same corrective measures required of Parker Medical.
“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.