The U.S. Department of Labor has reached a consent agreement with a Connecticut dentist who fired an employee after she filed an OSHA whistleblower complaint that the office was too cold.
On Jan. 16, 2011, the employee filed an electronic complaint with OSHA about “what she experienced to be extremely cold working conditions” in the front office and waiting area of the dental practice.
The filing says the worker had complained previously to the dentist about the cold conditions.
OSHA contacted the office of Scott Bialik, a dentist in Brookfield, CT, two days later.
Another two days after OSHA contacted the dentist, the employee who complained was fired.
The worker then filed a whistleblower complaint with OSHA, specifically, that she had been fired in retaliation for going to the federal agency. OSHA said its subsequent investigation found evidence to verify claims of retaliation.
Bialik has agreed to pay his former employee $24,630 in back wages and interest as well as $5,000 in emotional distress damages.
The dentist office has also agreed to display the OSHA poster with information about whistleblower rights, expunge the employee’s personnel record and provide a neutral job reference.
The consent agreement permanently prohibits Bialik from discriminating against, restraining or coercing any employee who files a complaint with OSHA, cooperates with an OSHA investigation or exercises any other rights guaranteed under the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act.
Under various U.S. laws, employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who raise various protected concerns or provide protected information to the employer or to the government.
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the OSH Act and 21 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of various laws.