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Attorney general sues AT&T for suspending injured workers

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AT&T’s Indiana operating company faces a discrimination lawsuit from the Indiana Department of Labor for suspending three workers, allegedly because they reported work-related injuries.

The department sued Indiana Bell Telephone Co., the local AT&T subsidiary, July 24 in response to complaints Daniel Drummond, Shon Payne and William Ingram filed with the state this year.

The lawsuit alleges the company “has a practice and policy” of suspending employees for at least one day after they report work-related injuries.

“This policy punishes employees for reporting injuries and consequently prevents or deters Indiana Bell employees from exercising their right to report work-related injuries,” the lawsuit states.

AT&T spokesman Marty Richter said the company complies with all workplace health and safety regulations.

“We do not suspend employees for reporting a work-related injury,” Richter said. “Employees may be suspended, however, for violating our safety rules and policies, on which they are trained.”

A Department of Labor spokesman referred questions to the Attorney General’s Office, where spokesman Bryan Corbin declined to comment beyond what was stated in the lawsuit.

Drummond and Payne, both premises technicians, and Ingram, a customer services specialist, were hurt in late 2012 or early 2013, according to the suit.

Drummond, who has worked for AT&T for two years, slipped on a clear substance while working at a Walmart in January. The company’s medical clinic diagnosed him with a “severely sprained knee and ankle,” the suit says. He missed 22 days of work.

When he returned in February, AT&T suspended him a day because he “violated company safety practices by not surveying the work area and seeing a clear substance on the workplace floor,” according to the suit.

Payne, a one-year employee, was working at a customer's home in February when he noticed an attic door partially open. He pulled on a rope to close it, but the door suddenly sprang shut and a piece of plastic on the rope cut his finger.

In March, a manager questioned Payne about the accident. The company suspended him for a day for violating safety policies, the suit says.

Ingram, a 13-year AT&T veteran, injured his arm in October when he tried to place a ladder on a truck. He went to the medical clinic the next day, but his condition worsened over the next few weeks. He underwent surgery and missed three months of work.

A manager questioned him after he returned to work, and the company suspended him a day for violating safety policy, according to the suit.

Each man filed a complaint with the Department of Labor soon after his suspension. Drummond and Ingram still work for AT&T. Payne left, but it was “unrelated to his recent injury,” Richter said.

Richter would not comment on AT&T’s reasoning behind each suspension.

“I’ll reiterate, though, that we do not suspend employees for reporting a work-related injury,” he said.

Zoeller’s office claims AT&T “unlawfully discriminated against Drummond, Payne and Ingram … because they exercised their right to report a work-related injury to Indiana Bell management.”

The lawsuit describes the company’s actions as “willful, malicious, and oppressive.”

The lawsuit seeks compensation for the wages and benefits each man lost to his suspension, as well as any other expenses they had in connection to the unpaid time off and all prosecution costs.

The suit seeks unspecified “appropriate punitive damages."

Among non-financial relief, the Department of Labor seeks an injunction that would prevent AT&T from “continuing to discriminate” against employees injured at work.

The state also wants a court order requiring the company to post a notice in a “prominent location accessible to all employees” informing workers of their health and safety rights.
Originally published at IBJ.com.

Correction: An earlier version of this story said that Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller was suing Indiana Bell. The attorney general is not a party to the case; he is instead the plaintiff’s lawyer, as he typically is whenever a state government agency files a civil lawsuit against a defendant.

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  1. The $320,000 is the amount the school spent in litigating two lawsuits: One to release the report involving John Trimble (as noted in the story above) and one defending the discrimination lawsuit. The story above does not mention the amount spent to defend the discrimination suit, that's why the numbers don't match. Thanks for reading.

  2. $160k? Yesterday the figure was $320k. Which is it Indiana Lawyer. And even more interesting, which well connected law firm got the (I am guessing) $320k, six time was the fired chancellor received. LOL. (From yesterday's story, which I guess we were expected to forget overnight ... "According to records obtained by the Journal & Courier, Purdue spent $161,812, beginning in July 2012, in a state open records lawsuit and $168,312, beginning in April 2013, for defense in a federal lawsuit. Much of those fees were spent battling court orders to release an independent investigation by attorney John Trimble that found Purdue could have handled the forced retirement better")

  3. The numbers are harsh; 66 - 24 in the House, 40 - 10 in the Senate. And it is an idea pushed by the Democrats. Dead end? Ummm not necessarily. Just need to go big rather than go home. Nuclear option. Give it to the federal courts, the federal courts will ram this down our throats. Like that other invented right of the modern age, feticide. Rights too precious to be held up by 2000 years of civilization hang in the balance. Onward!

  4. I'm currently seeing someone who has a charge of child pornography possession, he didn't know he had it because it was attached to a music video file he downloaded when he was 19/20 yrs old and fought it for years until he couldn't handle it and plead guilty of possession. He's been convicted in Illinois and now lives in Indiana. Wouldn't it be better to give them a chance to prove to the community and their families that they pose no threat? He's so young and now because he was being a kid and downloaded music at a younger age, he has to pay for it the rest of his life? It's unfair, he can't live a normal life, and has to live in fear of what people can say and do to him because of something that happened 10 years ago? No one deserves that, and no one deserves to be labeled for one mistake, he got labeled even though there was no intent to obtain and use the said content. It makes me so sad to see someone I love go through this and it makes me holds me back a lot because I don't know how people around me will accept him...second chances should be given to those under the age of 21 at least so they can be given a chance to live a normal life as a productive member of society.

  5. It's just an ill considered remark. The Sup Ct is inherently political, as it is a core part of government, and Marbury V Madison guaranteed that it would become ever more so Supremely thus. So her remark is meaningless and she just should have not made it.... what she could have said is that Congress is a bunch of lazys and cowards who wont do their jobs so the hard work of making laws clear, oftentimes stops with the Sups sorting things out that could have been resolved by more competent legislation. That would have been a more worthwhile remark and maybe would have had some relevance to what voters do, since voters cant affect who gets appointed to the supremely un-democratic art III courts.

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