Court requires North Texas dental practice, owners to pay $15K in back wages to workers fired for raising COVID-19 safety concerns
NORTH RICHLAND HILLS, TX – Two workers at a North Texas dental practice will share $15,706 in back wages to be paid by the dentists who fired them for raising concerns about COVID-19 safety measures in Spring 2020, following a federal whistleblower investigation and litigation by the U.S. Department of Labor.
An investigation by the department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration found 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 furloughed, a dental hygienist and dental assistant asked what safety measures would be in place once patients and employees returned. After 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. OSHA also found the practice rescinded its offer to rehire the dental assistant after they inquired about safety measures and their protection. Both employees were ultimately terminated by Roger H. Bohannan DDS Inc.
OSHA determined the employer discriminated against the employees for exercising their right to express concerns about their safety and health.
“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.”
In July 2021, the department filed a lawsuit against the dentists 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.
“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 the whistleblower provisions of more than 20 whistleblower statutes protecting employees from retaliation for reporting violations of various workplace safety and health, airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, health insurance reform, motor vehicle safety, nuclear, pipeline, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime, securities, tax, antitrust and anti-money laundering laws.
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Editor’s note: The U.S. Department of Labor does not release the names of employees involved in whistleblower complaints.