Friday, May 24, 2013
From staff reports
PORTLAND – The United States Department of Labor is suing a Bath dentist for allegedly retaliating against two dental hygienists who complained about improper infection-control procedures at her practice.
The complaint filed in U.S. District Court alleges that Dr. Tammy Cook, the owner of Bath Family Dental, discriminated against the hygienists, Dorothy Shafran and Chelsea Huntington.
The suit seeks lost wages, benefits and compensatory and punitive damages for Shafran and Huntington.
"We deny the allegations, we feel we have meritorious defense. We intend to vigorously litigate the case," Robert Kline, Cook's lawyer, said.
He said one of the defenses will be that the underlying complaint was not made in good faith.
The hygienists told Cook about their concerns about perceived lapses like failing to decontaminate treatment rooms and failing to wash hands or wear gloves, but the situation did not improve, according to the complaint filed Friday.
The two filed health and safety complaints with OSHA in October 2011 when their concerns were allegedly ignored. OSHA inspectors went to the office two days after the first complaint.
During the inspection, Cook said she knew who filed the complaint and would fire them, and when reminded of whistle-blower protections, said she would fire them for other reasons and that OSHA would not be able to prove otherwise, according to the complaint.
Working conditions deteriorated for both women before Shafran was fired and Huntington resigned later that month, according to the complaint.