FAIRMONT, W.Va. – The US Dept. of Labor filed a lawsuit Jan. 24 against Lone Star Western Beef Inc. and its owner, John M. Bachman, seeking back wages and punitive damages for an employee who was terminated after she tried to call 911 when a co-worker severed part of his thumb while at work.

According to agency reports, during the incident, which occurred in July 2014, an employee went to aid a co-worker after he cut off part of his thumb. She helped him apply pressure to the wound and started to call 911 with her own phone. Bachman then ordered her to hang up with 911, and instructed a supervisor to drive the injured employee to an urgent care clinic. The injured worker was later taken to the hospital, but doctors were unable to reattach the severed thumb. 

The employee later discussed concerns with an onsite US Dept. of Agriculture inspector regarding how the incident was handled and how the area where the accident occurred was never cleaned and sanitized. She also discussed lack of appropriate personal protective equipment at the plant. Two days after the incident, she was fired.

“Lone Star Western Beef punished an employee for seeking emergency medical care for a seriously injured co-worker. Her efforts were protected under Section 11(c) and showed basic human decency,” said Richard Mendelson, OSHA regional administrator in Philadelphia. “No worker should have to fear retaliation from their employer for calling 911 in an emergency, or taking other action to report a workplace safety or health incident.”

After her termination, the employee filed a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, alleging that Lone Star Western Beef Inc., and John M. Bachman fired her in retaliation for engaging in a protected activity under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. The agency’s investigation found that the company violated the act’s anti-discrimination provision, or Section 11(c), when Bachman terminated her for trying to call 911 in response to the incident.

The department's Regional Office of the Solicitor in Philadelphia is handling the court case.