Michigan School District to Pay Worker in Asbestos Case

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By Sam Pearson

July 1 — A Michigan school district unlawfully retaliated against a janitor who complained about asbestos exposure, federal investigators said.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration said June 29 the janitor, who worked at the Dearborn Heights School District in Michigan, was subjected to adverse personnel actions after she reported the improper conduct. OSHA ordered the district to pay $193,139 in back wages, damages and other compensation for allegedly violating the Clean Air Act's whistle-blower provisions.

The janitor objected when told by a supervisor to dry sand floor tiles containing asbestos. The janitor said she was not trained on how to mitigate asbestos hazards and was not given protective equipment, OSHA said.

OSHA found she was continually retaliated against as she presented evidence she was exposed to asbestos. The janitor was reprimanded after filing complaints with the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency, and discussing her case with local media outlets, OSHA said.

“No worker should be harassed or punished for reporting unsafe working conditions, advocating for other employees and seeking assurance that they are not being exposed to carcinogenic materials such as asbestos which can impact their long-term health,” OSHA Region 5 Administrator Ken Nishiyama Atha said in a statement June 29. “OSHA's investigation found the Dearborn Heights School District clearly knew the tiles contained asbestos and failed to protect workers from exposure.”

A message left for Dearborn Heights School District Superintendent John Fazer July 1 was not returned.

Both parties may request a hearing on the findings before an administrative law judge within 30 days.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sam Pearson at spearson@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com

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