Formaldehyde firing results in big payoff for salon employee
News sources say Valerie Connolly, who’d worked at Salon Zoe for seven years, was terminated in June of 2012 after informing salon workers about the potential dangers of Magic Keratina, a product used in the salon. Magic Keratina contains formaldehyde.
Connolly became concerned about the product when she began experiencing health symptoms that included difficulty breathing. When her doctors were initially unable to determine the cause, she began investigating elements in her workplace. (Connolly’s doctors have since determined that the formaldehyde was the cause of her symptoms, which have subsided during her absence from the salon.)
She was fired a few days after she informed her co-workers about the hazards of formaldehyde.
“She believed there was a health hazard. She complained about it, and she was fired because she complained,” said Elena Goldstein,senior trial attorney for the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of the Solicitor. “No worker should be fired because they complain about dangerous conditions on the job.”
Lawsuit leads to settlement
The settlement, the result of a DOL lawsuit against the salon and its owner, Kristina Veljovic, awards Connolly $65,000 in lost wages and $100,000 in compensatory damages for pain and suffering, government officials said.
OSHA cited Salon Zoe in 2012 for not training employees about formaldehyde and other hazardous chemicals.
The salon is also required to expunge Connolly’s personnel records of all references to the matter and her termination and, when requested, provide a written, neutral job reference. The company must also inform employees about their whistleblower rights under the Occupational Safety and Health Act.
A simple message
“There’s a simple message here: Don’t fire, discriminate or retaliate against your employees when they raise legitimate health and safety issues; there will be consequences,” Jeffrey Rogoff, the regional solicitor of labor in New York, said in a news release. “The department will pursue appropriate legal actions, including lawsuits, to ensure that workers’ rights are protected.”