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'Unacceptable and deeply concerning': Dallas church fired employee in retaliation over report of unsafe conditions at childcare facility, OSHA says

A nutrition specialist was fired in August 2021 after reporting the childcare center's kitchen and other areas were infested with rodents and insects.

DALLAS — A Dallas church has been ordered to reinstate an employee who was fired after raising concerns over unsanitary and unhealthy conditions at its childcare center in 2021.

The United States Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) launched an investigation after a nutrition specialist for a childcare center operated by New Mount Zion Baptist Church alleged the facility had rodents, spiders and other insects in its cafeteria, kitchen and other areas.

As a result of reporting the allegations, OSHA said the nutrition specialist was fired by the church in August 2021.

After the investigation concluded, OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Programs in Dallas said the church violated the Food Safety Modernization Act when it illegally fired the nutrition specialist “in retaliation for exercising their protected rights to report unsafe and unhealthy conditions.”

“New Mount Zion Baptist Church’s actions toward the employee are unacceptable and deeply concerning,” OSHA Regional Administrator Eric S. Harbin in Dallas said. “The existence of rodents and insects in food preparation and serving areas poses a health hazard. The employee had the legal right to express apprehensions about the unhygienic surroundings and should not have been fired for doing so.” 

OSHA order New Mount Zion to not only reinstate the employee but also to pay them back their wages, interest and compensatory damages for the wrongful termination. 

WFAA reached out to New Mount Zion for comment, in which they replied, "We have no comment at this time as we are working through this process with our attorney." 

New Mount Zion was founded in 1946 and now provides both online and in-person services to over 2,500 members. It operates both the childcare center and a credit union. 

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