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CLEVELAND -- The AT&T workers suspension without pay for reporting workplace injuries has prompted a lawsuit by the U.S. Department of Labor in U.S. District Court here.

The department filed the lawsuit against The Ohio Bell Telephone Company, which operates as AT&T, on behalf of 13 employees who received unpaid suspensions after reporting work place injuries from 2011 to 2013.

The complaint alleges that in 13 separate incidents, employees of AT&T were disciplined and given one- to three-day unpaid suspensions for reporting injuries that occurred on the job. The company alleged that each employee violated a corporate workplace safety standard; however, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's investigation found that the suspensions were a result of workers reporting their injuries.

Five of the employees in the suit are based in Columbus; two in Brooklyn Heights; two in Canton; and one each in Akron, Cleveland, Gallipolis and Uhrichsville.

"It is against the law for employers to discipline or suspend employees for reporting injuries," said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. "AT&T must understand that by discouraging workers from reporting injuries, it increases the likelihood of more workers being injured in the future. And the Labor Department will do everything in its power to prevent this type of retaliation."

The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Eastern Division, alleges the company violated the whistleblower provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. The department's Regional Office of the Solicitor in Cleveland is litigating the case.

OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of 22 statutes protecting employees who report violations of various airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, motor vehicle safety, health care reform, nuclear, pipeline, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime and securities laws.

Employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who raise concerns or provide information to their employer or the government under any of these laws. Employees who believe they are a victim of retaliation for engaging in protected conduct may file a complaint with OSHA's Directorate of Whistleblower Protection Programs.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance.

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