Yesterday, the U.S. Labor Department filed a lawsuit against food manufacturer Lone Star Western Beef as well as owner John M. Bachman after an employee was allegedly fired for calling 911.
In July 2014, a worker severed part of his thumb at the beef jerky manufacturing plant. A co-worker acted quickly, helping apply pressure to the wound and calling 911 on her cellphone. But, before responders could answer, Bachman, the owner, ordered the co-worker to hang up the phone. And two days later, she was fired.
Instead of calling an ambulance, Bachman grabbed the thumb, and had a company supervisor drive the employee to an urgent care clinic. The injured worker was then transferred to a hospital, where doctors couldn’t reattach his thumb.
According to the co-worker, Bachman, on top of stifling efforts to call 911, also failed to clean the area where the incident happened. So, later that day, she brought up her concerns not only about the accident and cleanup, but also about the lack of protective equipment, as well as her attempt to call 911 with a U.S. Department of Agriculture inspector.
After she was fired, the co-worker called OSHA and filed a complaint alleging that she was terminated in retaliation for engaging in an activity protected under Occupational Safety and Health Act. The agency's investigation found that the company violated the act's anti-discrimination provision.
According to OSHA regional administrator Richard Mendelson, Lone Star punished an employee for seeking emergency medical care for a seriously injured co-worker, and showing basic human decency.
The lawsuit is seeking back wages and punitive damages for the terminated employee.