By Julian Hattem - 02/10/14 03:49 PM EST
The Labor Department is suing AT&T on behalf of 13 Ohio workers it claims were unfairly treated after reporting injuries they received on the job.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the telecommunications giant retaliated against its employees for reporting their workplace injuries by suspending them without pay, in violation of federal whistle-blower protection laws.
“It is against the law for employers to discipline or suspend employees for reporting injuries,” David Michaels, OSHA’s chief, said in a statement on Monday.
OSHA claimed that in 13 separate instances from 2011 to 2013, AT&T workers in a handful of cities across Ohio were sent home without pay for reporting injuries they received while at work. The suspensions allegedly lasted from one to three days.
AT&T justified the actions by claiming that each employee had violated a corporate safety standard. An OSHA investigation, however, concluded that the workers were actually suspended for reporting their injuries, not for breaking the company’s rules.
An AT&T spokesman said in a statement sent to The Hill that the suit is “without merit.”
“We’ve long been recognized as an employer of choice and are committed to full compliance with all federal and state laws, including workplace safety laws,” the spokesman said.
The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio’s Eastern Division. OSHA’s Cleveland office is leading the case.
This story was updated at 6:11 p.m.