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DOL Sues Food Processor for Firing Worker After 911 Call

January 6, 2017

3 Min Read
DOL Sues Food Processor for Firing Worker After 911 Call
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The U.S. Department of Labor filed a lawsuit against food processor Lone Star Western Beef Inc. and its owner, John M. Buchman, on Thursday seeking back wages and punitive damages after an employee was fired for attempting to call 911 following the amputation of another employee’s finger.

“Lone Star Western Beef punished an employee for seeking emergency medical far for a seriously injured co-worker. Her efforts were protected under Section 11(c) and showed basic human decency,” said Richard Mendelson, regional administrator for the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in Philadelphia in a statement. “No worker should have to fear retaliation from their employer for calling 911 in an emergency, or taking other action to report a workplace safety or health incident.

The lawsuit stems from a July 2014 incident when a worker was fired two days after she was ordered to hang up a call to 911 after another worker’s thumb was severed. Buchman, the owner of Lone Star Western Beef, collected the severed section of the worker’s finger and instructed a company supervisor to drive the man to an urgent care clinic. The man was transferred to an area hospital and ultimately doctors were unable to reattach the severed thumb part.

The female worker who attempted to call 911 observed that the area of the facility where the injury occurred was not sanitized or cleaned by Buchman following the accident. The afternoon of the incident, she voiced her concerns to a U.S. Department of Agriculture investigator about the accident, cleanup, and lack of appropriate protective equipment, and her attempt to contact 911.

Following her termination, the worker contacted OSHA to file a complaint that Buchanan and the company fired her in retaliation for engaging in an activity that is protected under the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

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The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia, Clarksburg Division, seeks:

Enjoining Lone Star Western Beef Inc., John M. Buchman, and any officers, agents, servants, or employees from violating Section 11(c)(1) of the act.

- Directing the defendants to pay damages to the terminated worker for lost wages resulting from the termination.
- Directing the company to post a notice at its facility for 60 days stating that it will not discriminate or retaliate against employees involved in activities protected by Section 11(c) of the act.
- Ordering all appropriate relief including punitive damages, emotional distress, pain, and suffering, and any other expense incurred due to the termination.

Employers in the U.S. are prohibited from retaliation again employees who bring up protected concerns or provide protected information to the employer or the government.

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