Three whistleblowers are finally getting some relief after federal authorities determined they were wrongfully terminated from a Hartford, Connecticut, health care facility in retaliation for addressing serious public health concerns.
Charter Oak Health Center, which provides health care services to underserved communities in the Hartford area, and its former CEO agreed to settle a complaint initiated in early 2012, when the whistleblowers turned to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for help.
According to OSHA, Charter Oak’s interim senior vice-president for operations, director of nursing, and coordinator of its Healthy Start program actively tried or helped with efforts to raise awareness among fellow employees, management, and the public about a tuberculosis risk in the health care center in December 2011.
The three employees also cooperated with the occupational and health authorities who investigated the tuberculosis risk.
On Feb. 24, 2012, about two months after the tuberculosis concerns first emerged, Charter Oak’s then-CEO Alberta D. Turner terminated the three employees. An OSHA investigation of the terminations later found that they were unwarranted and violated federal whistleblower protections.
In June, Charter Oak and Ms. Turner reached an agreement with OSHA to compensate the three former employees for lost wages and take other corrective action.
A consent judgment filed in a federal court in Connecticut orders the medical center and Ms. Turner to pay lost wages of $125,000 to the three workers, with one employee getting $85,000 and the other two getting $30,000 and $10,000. They must also provide neutral letters of reference, and post notices in the workplace and individually notify employees about their whistleblower rights.
“It’s critical to workplace safety and health that employee voices not be stifled,” said Galen Blanton, OSHA’s New England regional administrator.
“We remind companies that employees have a legal right to raise health and safety concerns about their workplaces without fear of retaliation, and that it’s in the interest of everyone to address those concerns,” added Michael Felsen, the OSHA’s New England regional solicitor.