The U.S. Department of Labor announced Thursday that it has filed a lawsuit against two North Texas dentists on behalf of a dental hygienist and a dental assistant who were not reinstated after expressing concerns about what COVID-19 safety measures would be in place when the practice reopened in the spring of 2020.
The DOL said that in March and April 2020, Roger Bohannan and David Bohannan, owners of Roger H. Bohannan DDS Inc. in North Richland Hills, Texas, furloughed their employees after the state prohibited specific dental procedures at the height of the pandemic.
While furloughed, the two employees asked what safety measures would be in place once patients and employees returned. After receiving a call to return to work, the employer did not reinstate the two after they cited guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Occupational Safety and Health Administration, according to the DOL.
An OSHA investigation found that the practice discriminated against the employees for exercising their rights to question safety protocols, as the two were not rehired while all of the other staff members were reinstated when the furlough ended, according to the DOL.
Filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, the suit is asking the court to order the employer to pay the complainant damages, plus interest, for all past and future lost wages and benefits resulting from the termination; reimbursement for costs and expenses; compensatory damages, including for compensation for emotional pain and distress, and exemplary or punitive damages in an amount to be determined at trial.
The dental office did not immediately respond to questions for comment.
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