Labor Department Sues Ohio Bell for Suspending Workers Who Reported Workplace Injuries

OSHA has accused the Ohio Bell Telephone Company (“Ohio Bell”), which operates as AT&T, of suspending workers for reporting their various workplace injuries, including in two instances related to ladder accidents. “It is against the law for employers to discipline or suspend employees for reporting injuries,” said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. “AT&T must understand that by discouraging workers from reporting injuries, it increases the likelihood of more workers being injured in the future.”

The lawsuit, brought by the U.S. Department of Labor, alleges that in 13 separate incidents from 2011 to 2013, Ohio Bell employees were disciplined and given one- to three-day unpaid suspensions for reporting their injuries. Ohio Bell claimed that each employee violated a corporate workplace safety standard; however, OSHA’s investigation found that the suspensions were a result of workers reporting their injuries.

The lawsuit, Perez v. The Ohio Bell Telephone Company, Civil Action No. 1:14-cv-269, was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Eastern Division, and alleges that Ohio Bell violated the whistleblower provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. Notably, OSHA is charged with enforcing 22 statutes that contain whistleblower or anti-retaliation provisions. Employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who raise concerns or provide information to their employer or the government under any of these laws.

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