A Florida federal judge ruled this afternoon that my client, who objected to what he believed were dangerous conditions on the job and then saw his scheduled work hours slashed to zero, is entitled to present his case to a jury. The trial begins May 20, 2014.
The employee worked for a company that provides housekeeping and janitorial staffing to hospitals. His duties included discarding dangerous waste products generated by the hospital’s emergency room, such as used needles and bloodsoaked bandages and gauze. Soon after he began, he complained that he hadn’t been properly trained to deal with these biohazards. There are in fact training routines for safely handling them, but he hadn’t been given them. In addition, he alleges, he complained about having to transport potentially-infected needles that weren’t properly encased. Federal safety regulations require such training, and require specific safety measures to prevent workers who are exposed to dangerous biological hazards from illness, infection or death from caused by illegal exposures to infected surgical products and bloodborne pathogens.
My client alleges that his employer ignored his repeated complaints, and eventually he made an “anonymous” report to OSHA, the federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration. The problem is, OSHA posted a Notice of Alleged Safety or Health Hazards in his work area, and it described the “anonymous” report in a way that matched the very same complaints my client had been making for months directly to his managers. Swiftly after the notice was posted, the managers cut my client’s scheduled hours to zero. After leaving him off the schedule for 76 days in a row, the company then terminated him for, of all things, not working.
The case goes to trial May 20, 2014, where a 12-person jury will decide the outcome. The case is Little v. Hospital Housekeeping Systems LLC, Case No. 4:13-CV-441-RH-CAS.