If you were shopping at the Miami Beach Whole Foods on November 1, 2009, you might have been subjected to the powerful stench of a raw sewage leak. Management tried to ignore the problem and covered the smell with air freshener, but as New Times reported later that month, an unnamed employee whom we dubbed "Janet" informed corporate management of the poop-leak coverup. She ended up getting fired. Now the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is suing the chain for firing the employee.
The employee told New Times that after rank-smelling brown water flooded the cheese aisle, she discovered that a sewage line had broken. Local management decided to just lock the bathroom doors and cover the mess with air freshener, so she reported the incident to corporate management.
She was then fired. The company claimed it was for reporting misleading information.
She filed a complaint with OSHA after the termination.
OSHA is asking the federal court to remedy the situation by issuing an order that includes a permanent injunction against Whole Foods to prevent future violations of this law; reinstating the former employee with full benefits; paying back wages, punitive damages and compensatory damages to the employee; expunging the employee's personnel file with respect to the matters at issue in this case; and granting any other appropriate relief.
"OSHA takes allegations of workplace discrimination very seriously," said Teresa Harrison, OSHA's acting regional administrator in Atlanta, in a press release. "These types of allegations are thoroughly investigated, and employers violating the whistleblower protection provisions of the OSH Act are held accountable and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."
Three years later and it seems Whole Foods is still dealing with the stink. There isn't enough air freshener in the world to cover up alleged law breaking.
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