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Region 7 News Release: 14-808-KAN
May 15, 2014
Contact: Scott Allen      Rhonda Burke
Phone:       312-353-6976
Email: allen.scott@dol.gov      burke.rhonda@dol.gov

Discipline of Southwestern Bell workers prompts lawsuit by
US Department of Labor for illegal retaliation against workers

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The U.S. Department of Labor has filed a lawsuit against Southwestern Bell Telephone Co. on behalf of four employees who received disciplinary action and unsatisfactory performance appraisals for reporting workplace injuries that occurred in Missouri and Kansas in 2011 and 2012.

"It is against the law for employers to discipline employees for reporting injuries," said Marcia Drumm, acting regional administrator for OSHA in Kansas City, Mo. "Southwestern Bell must understand that, by discouraging workers from reporting injuries, it increases the likelihood of more injured workers in the future. The department will do everything in its power to prevent this type of retaliation."

The complaint alleges that in four separate incidents, employees of Southwestern Bell were disciplined and/or given unsatisfactory performance appraisals. The company alleged that each employee violated a corporate workplace safety standard; however, OSHA's investigation found that the company's actions were a result of workers reporting their injuries.

An employee based in Parkville, Mo., injured his knee on Jan. 11, 2011, when he stepped into a depression during snowy conditions. The company found the worker at fault for the incident. His 2011 performance appraisal rated him below expectations in safety because of the incident. Another employee based in Liberty, Mo., received a poor performance appraisal after the company said his work-related fracture occurring on Aug. 3, 2011, was because of a violation of the company's safety policies.

Two other employees were given performance not