A Pennsylvania hair salon will have to pay a former employee $40,000 in back pay after the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) found the salon owners unlawfully fired the employee in retaliation for contacting OSHA with health and safety concerns.
OSHA said the U.S. Department of Labor filed a lawsuit against Blown Away Dry Bar and Salon in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, on behalf of the hairstylist. The lawsuit was prompted by a complaint the hairstylist’s husband reported to OSHA.
Business Insurance fills in some of the details of the case, announced by OSHA on Feb. 19. In March 2017, employees of Blown Away expressed concerns about their health and safety when the salon’s toilet repeatedly backed up and overflowed.
According to Business Insurance, Jennifer Singer, who owns the salon with her husband, wouldn’t allow the employees to close the business on that day despite the unsanitary conditions, even after employees texted photos and described the situation.
The next day, a cleaning crew tracked soiled water throughout the salon, then treated the bathroom with harsh chemicals.
“Employees experienced gagging and nausea as a result of the smell of waste in the salon,” the complaint stated, according to Business Insurance. “After the cleaning crew sprayed chemicals in the bathroom, the staff experienced burning eyes, headaches and nausea.”
When the employee told her husband about the conditions at the salon and the owners’ response, he reported the hazards to OSHA. A few days later, another salon employee told Ms. Singer that the employee’s husband submitted a complaint to OSHA. The salon fired the employee on March 30, 2017, allegedly in retaliation for contacting OSHA.
A subsequent OSHA investigation found that the salon and its owners retaliated against the employee in violation of her whistleblower rights under the Occupational Safety and Health Act.
“Employees have the right to report workplace safety or health hazards without fear of retaliation from their employer,” said Philadelphia Regional Administrator Richard Mendelson. “This settlement goes a long way in making this employee whole after she was fired for engaging in an activity that is protected by law.”