An investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) found that a dental practice in north Texas, Roger H. Bohannan DDS Inc., retaliated against two employees after they raised concerns about COVID-19 safety protocols back in 2020. The two dentists who fired the employees will pay a combined total of $15,706 in back wages.
According to the OSHA news release, “Roger and David Bohannan of Roger H. Bohannan DDS Inc. initially furloughed their employees when the state of Texas banned specific dental procedures in March and April 2020, at the height of the pandemic.” While on furlough, the two employees – a dental hygienist and a dental assistant – “asked what safety measures would be in place once patients and employees returned.”
OSHA states that “[a]fter receiving a call to return to work, the practice did not reinstate the hygienist after they cited guidance from OSHA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.” Additionally, OSHA found that the practice “rescinded its offer to rehire the dental assistant after they inquired about safety measures and their protection.” Roger H. Bohannan DDS Inc. eventually fired both employees.
“OSHA determined the employer discriminated against the employees for exercising their right to express concerns about their safety and health,” the news release states.
The DOL filed a lawsuit against Roger and David Bohannan in July 2021 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Fort Worth Division. “On Feb. 3, 2023, the court entered a consent judgment in which Roger and David Bohannan and Roger H. Bohannan DDS Inc. agreed to pay the back wages. 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,” according to the news release.
“Like all workers, these two people had every right to speak up without the fear of losing their jobs,” said OSHA Regional Administrator Eric S. Harbin in Dallas. “We want workers to know that OSHA is here to protect their rights, and we won’t hesitate to exercise our authority when they are violated.”
“The U.S. Department of Labor will vigorously seek to prevent employers from retaliating against workers who exercise their rights to voice safety and health concerns,” said Regional Solicitor of Labor John Rainwater in Dallas. “This case shows that we will use legal action to enforce the law and ensure the safety, health and well-being of workers.”
OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program enforces 25 whistleblower statutes, conducts investigations, and issues decisions regarding whistleblowers.