A Beverly dentist, N. Terry Fayad, is being sued by the U.S. Department of Labor for reportedly terminating an employee for raising concerns about needle contamination hazards in the workplace and for filing a complaint with the department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
The whistleblower, who remains anonymous, filed the complaint in a U.S. district court in Boston by the department’s Office of the Regional Solicitor. Fayad supposedly fired the employee, who was working as a dental assistant, in November 2010. The employee questioned the hazards of an office procedure that required workers to remove protective caps from contaminated needles before putting the needles in a sharps disposal container. Such a procedure puts the employees at risk for injury or could expose them to possible infection by blood-borne pathogens such as hepatitis and HIV. The lawsuit attempts to restore the employee’s standing; payment of lost wages, benefits, interest, and compensatory and punitive damages; and also seeks to stop Fayad from violating the Occupational Safety and Health Act in the future.
Marthe Kent, OSHA’s New England regional administrator, said “No employer should ever treat employees this way…Workers have the right to perform their jobs without being exposed to life-threatening hazards as well as the right to raise concerns when faced with such hazards. The Labor Department will take all appropriate legal steps to ensure these rights are enforced.”
On November 23, 2010, OSHA conducted a separate health inspection of the dental practice and found that the practice was violating numerous safety standards. OSHA fined Fayad´s practice with $26,400 and eight alleged serious violations of the agency´s blood-borne pathogen and hazard communication standards. One of the citations stemmed from the office protocol which required employees to remove the safety cap from contaminated needles. Fayad contested all of the citations and the fine to the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
OSHA protects whistleblowers following the OSH Act along with 20 other statutes protecting employees who report violations in the workplace. Employers are prohibited by law from retaliating against or firing employees who raise concerns about workplace safety or who report such safety concerns.
Massachusetts Law mandates the use of a sharps container for the safe disposal of all needles and maintains strict regulations for health care providers when handling needles in order to prevent sharps injuries.
If you or your loved one has been injured in the workplace, it is advised that you contact an experienced Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyer.
US Labor Department sues Beverly, Mass., dentist for allegedly firing employee who raised concerns about contaminated needle disposal, OSHA Regional News Release, September 21, 2011
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