A sales associate at a Staples store has filed a lawsuit claiming she was fired after complaining to OSHA about cleaning an overflowing toilet without protective gear.
Carol Jean Cherrette was a sales associate at a Staples in Concord, NH. Part of her job was to staff checkout lines and clean restrooms. She was a top seller of the store’s product replacement plans and twice won employee-of-the-month awards.
One day her manager asked her to clean the women’s restroom.
Cherrette discovered a toilet overflowing with human waste and toilet paper.
She called her manager. After taking stock of the situation, the manager told her to empty the contents of the toilet into a bucket and dispose of the waste in an outdoor receptacle.
Cherrette asked for protective gear. The manager gave her gloves but nothing else. She wanted eye protection and a garment to wear over her clothes.
Waste from the toilet splashed onto her clothes, arms and face as she transferred it to the bucket.
Even though she was unable to properly clean herself afterward, she was ordered to go work at a cash register for the rest of the day.
Cherrette called OSHA and an inspector made a follow-up phone call to the company.
On a later date, Cherrette was again ordered to clean the women’s restroom and had to mop the floor and pick up used feminine hygiene products. Again her only provided protective gear was gloves.
She called OSHA again. The agency sent an inspector to the store.
The next day, Cherrette was suspended from her job for allegedly giving a Canadian penny to a customer.
On March 25, 2010, OSHA issued a citation and $7,500 in fines to Staples. The following day, Cherrette was fired, allegedly for selling a service protection plan on an ineligible product.
Staples settled the citation for $500.
Her lawyer says the timing is too much of a coincidence: one day, the inspection, the next day, the suspension. One day, the citation, the next day, her termination.
Cherrette wants her job back, back pay and her attorney’s fees. She says she’s been unable to find work since being fired.