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OSHA Exonerates School Asbestos Whistleblower

District ordered to rehire employee who reported unsafe maintenance practices

February 4, 2020

School facility managers have a responsibility to ensure campus buildings are healthy for students and teachers. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has determined a Michigan school district that terminated an employee for reporting unsafe air quality due to asbestos has violated whistleblower status.

The terminated employee had assisted with a 2012 federal investigation that came about when a worker objected after the school district’s director of operations and construction management told him to dry sand floor tiles that contained asbestos at a high school. The director failed to train school employees in asbestos hazards and provide protective equipment.

OSHA’s investigation found the Dearborn Heights School District publicly disputed employees’ complaints about unsafe conditions due to the asbestos. The investigation also found the school district violated whistleblower statues by unjustly disciplining, publicly discrediting, and terminating an employee who reported unsafe working conditions to federal and state agencies. OSHA ordered the school district to reinstate the employee and pay a total of US$102,905.78 in back wages, damages, and other compensation.

Proper handling of asbestos tiles in older buildings is just one of the concerns regarding indoor air quality (IAQ) in schools. Learn how healthy IAQ improves student performance.

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