Occupational Health & Safety

OSHA Fines Dentist for Punishing Whistleblowers

A Maine dentist owes two former employees $72,000 after violating anti-retaliation provision when they raised safety concerns.

A dentist in Maine is facing $72,000 to two employees who raised concerns about the safety of the office. After these dental hygienists first raised concerns with the dentist, Tammy L. Cook, and were ignored, one of the hygienists filed a complaint with OSHA.

The concerns raised pertained to perceived lapses in the infection prevention processes. One of the hygienists was fired and the other was put on administrative leave, leading to her resignation. OHSA, however, stepped in and has required Cook to pay one of the employees $38,000 and the other $34,000.

“This judgment upholds the clear legal right under the Occupational Safety and Health Act for employees to raise workplace safety and health concerns to their employers without fear of termination or other forms of reprisal," said Michael Felsen, the department's regional solicitor for New England, on the OSHA website. "It also reinforces the department's commitment to taking all appropriate legal action, including a lawsuit, to protect that right."

Cook will be required to make payment monthly to the former employees and remove all references to the matter from both employees’ personnel records.

"Employers must remember that workers have a voice in the workplace regarding their health and well-being," said Marthe Kent, OSHA's New England regional administrator. "Firing or forcing employees from their jobs for raising legitimate safety and health issues is unacceptable.”

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