A federal court ordered an Illinois dentist to pay $20,000 in back wages to a dental assistant who was terminated after complaining about the risk of COVID-19 at the office in March 2020.
The U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois entered a consent judgment Aug. 9, 2023, requiring Dr. Monzer Al-Dadah to pay the former dental assistant back wages and provide a neutral employment recommendation.
Dr. Al-Dadah is also required to remove any references from the former dental assistant’s employment records regarding the reason for their separation.
In March 2020, the dental assistant:
- complained about the risk of COVID-19 infection at the office
- refused a work assignment they believed would put them at risk of contracting COVID-19, and
- discussed workplace safety issues with co-workers.
OSHA investigators determined that, when Dr. Al-Dadah found out that someone filed a safety complaint with the agency, he tried to identify who it was and then terminated the dental assistant. The dental assistant was an employee at Dr. Al-Dadah’s office for more than 20 years.
Following the termination, the dental assistant filed a whistleblower complaint with OSHA. When OSHA investigators found that Dr. Al-Dadah violated whistleblower provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the agency filed a lawsuit in April 2022.