Church Fired Worker Who Flagged Rats, Spiders in Childcare Center: DOL

  • A Texas church fired a worker who spoke to health authorities about pests in its daycare center, per OSHA.
  • The worker said he’d spotted rats, roaches, and spiders in the facility’s kitchen and cafeteria.
  • OSHA ordered New Mount Zion Baptist Church to rehire him and pay him $31,000 in back wages and damages.

A church in Texas fired a worker who raised concerns after allegedly finding pests in the kitchen and cafeteria of its childcare center, according to the Department of Labor.

The DOL’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration said that a nutrition specialist had told local health authorities about rodents, spiders, and other insects in the childcare facility in Dallas, operated by New Mount Zion Baptist Church.

OSHA said that the church had violated federal food-safety laws by illegally firing the employee in August 2021 “in an attempt to silence him and to send a message to other employees not to complain” and had “intentionally and callously” disregarded his federal rights.

The agency ordered the employer to reinstate the worker and to pay him more than $31,000 in back wages and compensatory damages.

According to a findings report by OSHA, the worker alleged he spotted “infestations” of spiders, mosquitos, roaches, and both rats and rat feces in the facility. This included allegedly finding a rat infestation in the cafeteria near the children’s cots.

In May 2021, the worker spoke to the daycare center’s director about the alleged infestations as well as his concerns about the facility’s broken air conditioning.

On August 26, the worker reported the problems to the Dallas County Health Department. A health inspector visited the site that same day but was unable to substantiate the complaint, per OSHA.

The next day, the worker was told he was being terminated based on a vote by the church’s board, per OSHA. The worker had to borrow $2,725 from friends and family to survive until he found another job, according to its report.

In a preliminary order, OSHA told the church to reinstate the worker and pay him more than $11,000 in back wages and $20,000 in damages.

The church did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment, made outside of regular working hours.

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