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A court has ordered a Pennsylvania hair salon to pay $40,000 to a hair stylist fired after her husband reported workplace safety and health hazards at her workplace.
After an investigation by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania entered a consent judgment in R. Alexander Acosta, Secretary of Labor, United States Department of Labor vs. Blown Away Dry Bar and Salon, Jennifer Singer and Rand Singer ordering Blown Away Dry Bar and Salon based in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, to pay the terminated employee for her lost wages and punitive damages, according to a statement and court documents released by OSHA on Tuesday.
On March 2013, salon employees expressed concern about their safety and health because the toilet backed up and overflowed repeatedly, according to court documents. Ms. Singer — one of the employers — would not allow employees to close the salon on that day despite receiving text messages and photos describing the conditions, according to the documents. The next day, a cleaning crew tracked soiled water through the salon and sprayed chemicals in the bathroom.
“Employees experienced gagging and nausea as a result of the smell of waste in the salon,” the complaint stated. “After the cleaning crew sprayed chemicals in the bathroom, the staff experienced burning eyes, headaches and nausea.”
Ms. Singer waited four hours until closing the salon on March 24, 2017, and the employee later discussed the conditions with her husband, who reported the situation to OSHA, according to the documents. A few days later, a fellow employee informed Ms. Singer that the employee’s husband called OSHA, and she was fired on March 30, 2017, according to the complaint.
OSHA investigators determined the defendants retaliated against the employee in violation of the Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, according to the statement. The whistleblower complaint was filed on April 10, 2017.
In addition to the settlement, the judgment prohibits the defendants from offering any information about the complainant’s work history beyond the dates of employment, the position she held and the last salary or hourly wage in their employment, according to the statement. It also requires the defendants to prominently display a poster outlining employee rights with regards to a safe workplace for 60 days and permanently enjoins the defendants from violating provisions of the statute.
The legal action resolves a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Labor.
“Employees have the right to report workplace safety or health hazards without fear of retaliation from their employer,” Richard Mendelson, OSHA’s Philadelphia regional administrator, said in the statement. “This settlement goes a long way in making this employee whole after she was fired for engaging in an activity that is protected by law.”
The Singers could not be immediately reached for comment.
A manufacturer of retractable patio awnings was ordered to pay $160,000 to two workers who claimed they were fired for filing workplace safety complaints with the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.