In January 2021, the U.S. Department of Labor took legal action on behalf of a dental hygienist and a dental assistant against their employers, i.e., two dental practice owners. In April 2020, they had furloughed their employees after the State of Texas had prohibited a number of dental procedures on account of the pandemic.

Before being reinstated, the two employees asked what kind of safety measures the employers were planning to put in place once patients and employees would have returned. After such inquiries, both employees were not rehired while all of the other staff members were reinstated when the furlough ended.

On account of these facts, OSHA opened a federal whistleblower investigation and found that the employers had retaliated against the two employees for reporting concerns about working conditions and that this was in breach of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. Accordingly, OSHA filed a complaint before the District Court for the Northern District of Texas, asking the latter to order the employers to: (i) pay damages to the complainants; and (ii) post a notice for employees stating that they will not in any manner discriminate against any employee for engaging in activities protected by the OSH Act.

On 3 February 2023 the District Court for the Northern District of Texas entered a consent judgment under which the employers agreed to pay back wages amounting to 15,706 dollars to their former employees. The federal Court also prohibited the employers from further breaching the OSH Act and required them to provide neutral work references for wrongfully terminated employees.

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