Whistleblower Raised Concerns of Rodents, Spiders in Kitchen of Childcare Facility, Then Fired; OSHA Rules They Were Retaliated Against

Photo of a mouse eating off of a dirty plate in a kitchen

A nutrition specialist who worked for a childcare facility in Dallas operated by New Mount Zion Baptist Church voiced concerns about vermin in the space’s kitchen, cafeteria, and other areas. The whistleblower was fired in August of 2021; an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) found that the whistleblower was wrongly fired. 

OSHA “has ordered the employer to reinstate the nutrition specialist and to pay them back wages, interest and compensatory damages,” according to the news release. The whistleblower said there were “rodents, spiders and other insects in its cafeteria, kitchen and other areas” at the facility.

OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Programs in Dallas determined that the church violated the Food Safety Modernization Act when it illegally terminated the employee in retaliation for exercising their protected rights to report unsafe and unhealthy conditions,” OSHA reports. 

OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program enforces 25 whistleblower statutes, conducts investigations, and issues decisions regarding whistleblowers.

“New Mount Zion Baptist Church’s actions toward the employee are unacceptable and deeply concerning,” said OSHA Regional Administrator Eric S. Harbin in Dallas. “The existence of rodents and insects in food preparation and serving areas poses a health hazard. The employee had the legal right to express apprehensions about the unhygienic surroundings and should not have been fired for doing so,” Harbin said in the news release. 

WNN has previously covered OSHA’s public meetings, which are held virtually, about the agency’s whistleblower program. Since 2020, OSHA hosted meetings on the whistleblower program with specific focuses, like migrant workers, health care workers, and challenges regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. During the convenings, which individuals can sign up for on Eventbrite and are free to attend, speakers are invited to share their thoughts on the program. 

Past public meetings have been illuminating for understanding what various interested parties — union representatives, managers, employment lawyers and experts, and more — think of OSHA’s whistleblower protections and where they see room for improvement. One through line throughout all of the meetings WNN attended is contributors want more educational materials about the whistleblower protections employees are afforded. Another concern contributors have voiced is making such materials accessible to all employees, crossing language barriers and reaching out to non-English speaking communities. 

Read the news release here. 

Read more OSHA and employment news on WNN.

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