Safety and OSHA News

Worker goes to OSHA and court after messy restroom cleanups

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.

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  1. Gross… Sounds like the wrong person was let go… Calling OSHA is not something we want our employees to do, but it sounds like she was had little recourse. Looking at the article, her request was reasonable and was dismissed. I would be very uncomfortable working in clothes that were splashed with remants from the toilet. On top of that, the reason for the suspension – A Canadian penny?? Really??? Hopefully the settlement is reasonable.

  2. It would seem that management was unresponsive to her request-what are the required PPE’s for cleaning toliets- if she in fact wasn’t observant in reqgards to her job, Canadian penny and providing service plan on ineligible product then her dismissal was justified

  3. I have had to clean out clogged toilets; i must say I don’t like the task but it is not impossible. I wonder why the manager did not think after the first incident that he/she would procure a plastic apron and face shield at the hardware store for a couple of bucks. Not a lot. I wonder if there was more going on; a top performing sales person taken off the floor to do a mundane task? Unless there was a schedule or associates took turn, I would assign say my worst performer to the task (maybe that would give them incentive to get better?). maybe the manager had other issues with the employee, certainly the suspension and the firing for the reasons given are pretty shallow and to not know about OSHA whistleblower protections opening you up to a lawsuit is pretty lame. I bet there is a lot more to the story.

    • “procure a plastic apron” are you kidding? No one said the task was “impossible”- the task is biohazardous- not difficult or impossible. Being in direct contact with human fecal matter is *NOT* in her job description. Even hotel housekeeping is provided with safety gloves/spectacles for this sort of thing- and new rules/laws are being written up for this particular thing as we speak.

  4. Sounds to me like the Manager should be let go or demoted and Cherrette should be made manager since she seems to be an excellent employee with awareness of health and safety issues. I think she would make sure the employee assigned to various tasks would have what they need to be and feel safe and clean.

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