Government going to bat for whistleblower who reported bedbugs at retirement home

US Labor Department sues Ohio company seeking reinstatement, back wages for employee who was fired after filing complaint with health department.
Norwalk Reflector Staff
Jan 16, 2013

The U.S. Department of Labor has filed a lawsuit in federal court against S.E.M. Villa II Inc., a nonprofit corporation that operates S.E.M. Terrace, a retirement facility in Milford, for violating the whistleblower provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.

The employer terminated a resident manager for filing a complaint with the Clermont County General Health District stating that S.E.M. Villa II had been ineffective in handling a bedbug infestation at the retirement home.

“The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is committed to protecting the rights of America’s workers who are penalized or terminated for filing complaints seeking to improve the safety and health of their work environment and those affected by it,” said Nick Walters, OSHA’s regional administrator in Chicago.

The manager was dismissed Oct. 5, 2011. The suit seeks reinstatement of the worker, in addition to an undetermined amount of back wages and benefits, and the removal of all derogatory information related to the dismissal from the worker’s employment record. The suit also seeks to permanently enjoin the employer from violating the OSH Act in the future and require that a notice be posted for employees regarding their rights under the act.

OSHA, an agency of the Department of Labor, is being represented in this case by the department’s Regional Office of the Solicitor in Cleveland.

OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of 22 statutes protecting employees who report violations of various airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, motor vehicle safety, health care reform, nuclear, pipeline, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime and securities laws. Employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who raise various protected concerns or provide protected information to the employer or the government. Employees who believe that they have been retaliated against for engaging in protected conduct may file a complaint with the secretary of labor for an investigation by OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program. More information is available online at http://www.whistleblowers.gov.

Under the OSH Act, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.

Editor’s note: The U.S. Department of Labor does not release names of employees involved in whistleblower complaints.

Solis vs. S.E.M. VILLA ‘II’, INC.,

Case No. 1:13-cv-15