Federal court requires Peoria dentist to pay $20K in back wages to employee terminated after alleging unsafe working conditions
PEORIA, IL – The U.S. Department of Labor has obtained a judgment in federal court requiring a Peoria dentist to pay $20,000 in back wages for unlawfully terminating a dental assistant who complained about the risk of coronavirus infection, refused a work assignment they believed to be a risk for contracting coronavirus, and discussed workplace safety issues with coworkers.
On Aug. 9, 2023, Judge James E. Shadid of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois entered a consent judgment that requires Dr. Monzer K. Al-Dadah LLC and Dr. Al-Dadah to pay the former dental assistant back wages, provide a neutral employment recommendation and remove any references from employment records relating to the reason for their separation.
OSHA investigators determined that, when Dr. Al-Dadah learned someone had filed a safety complaint with the agency in March 2020, he tried to identify who made the accusation to OSHA and then terminated the dental assistant, who was an employee for more than 20 years. The dental assistant then filed an OSHA complaint alleging the retaliation. Federal law protects the rights of employees who refuse to perform work assignments when they have reasonable concerns of serious injury or death. Federal law also protects employees’ rights to make internal and external safety and health complaints.
After OSHA determined that the employer violated the whistleblower provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the department’s Office of the Solicitor in Chicago filed suit in April 2022.
“Employees must be able to exercise their legal rights regarding workplace safety freely and without fear of retaliation by their employer,” explained OSHA Assistant Regional Administrator Denise Keller in Chicago. “The outcome in this case reflects the Department of Labor’s commitment to protect workers’ rights.”
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the OSH Act and more than 20 other statutes protecting employees who report 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, criminal antitrust and anti-money laundering laws. For more information on whistleblower protections, visit OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Programs webpage.
Editor’s note: The U.S. Department of Labor does not release the names of employees involved in whistleblower complaints.
U.S. District Court for the Central Division of Illinois, Peoria
DOL v. Dr. Monzer K. Al-Dadah LLC, Dr. Monzer K. Al-Dadah