The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) filed a lawsuit against the owners of two Texas dental practices after two employees allegedly weren’t reinstated over their concerns regarding COVID-19 safety measures.
A dental hygienist and a dental assistant who reported COVID-related safety concerns were not rehired after their offices reopened in the spring of 2020.
Roger Bohannan and David Bohannan, the owners of Roger H. Bohannan DDS Inc., furloughed their employees in March and April 2020, following state coronavirus mandates.
During the furlough, the two employees inquired about safety measures the owners would take to protect them from COVID-19 when they returned to work, according to a DOL news release.
The hygienist received a phone call to return to work, but allegedly the Bohannans did not reinstate them after the employee cited guidance from OSHA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
After contacting the dental assistant about rehiring, the Bohannans allegedly rescinded the offer after the employee asked about the safety measures in place at the office.
OSHA investigators found the employer discriminated against both employees for making good faith health and safety complaints as neither of them was rehired but the rest of the staff was, once the furlough ended.
The DOL complaint asks the court to order the employer to:
- pay the employees damages, plus interest, for past and future lost wages and benefits resulting from the termination
- reimburse the employees for costs and expenses
- pay compensatory damages, including those for emotional pain and distress, along with exemplary or punitive damages in amount determined at trial, and
- post a notice for employees stating the employer will not discriminate against employees for whistleblower activities.