A Texas dental practice has to pay more than $15,000 in back pay to two whistleblowers who raised concerns about COVID-19 safety measures early in 2020.
An OSHA whistleblower investigation found that Roger and David Bohannan of Roger H. Bohannan DDS Inc. terminated the two employees because they asked questions about the protections the practice was planning to use when workers returned to the office.
Court requires payment of back wages
In July 2021, OSHA filed a lawsuit against the dentists in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas. On Feb. 3, 2023, the court entered a consent judgment that saw the practice agree to pay back wages to both employees in the amount of $15,706.
The judgment also forbids the employer from future violations of the OSH Act and requires them to provide neutral work references for wrongfully terminated employees.
‘Discriminated against for exercising right to express concerns’
Investigators found that the practice initially furloughed their employees when Texas banned specific dental procedures in March and April 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While on furlough, a dental hygienist and dental assistant asked what safety measures would be in place once patients and employees returned.
The practice didn’t reinstate the hygienist after they cited guidance from OSHA and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It also rescinded its offer to rehire the dental assistant after they inquired about what the practice would do to protect workers. Both workers were ultimately terminated by the practice, according to OSHA.
OSHA investigators found the employer discriminated against the employees for exercising their right to express concerns about safety and health.