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State 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.

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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  • HR Idiots
    You would think that a company like AT&T would have a competent HR staff, but that is not the case. Their HR department is a joke and complete mess. Any other major company in the US, would be appalled if their HR department acted in this manner. I don't even think we need to go into all the OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) violations you could find, just walking through one of their AT&T offices. Anyway, lesson learned here is for those considering a job with AT&T, look elsewhere. And if you don't agree with their employee practices - don't purchase their service(s) and encourage others to do the same.
  • At&T
    AT&T is a lousy employer that sets up it's employees for failure. Their unrealistic expectations is set up to keep the roll-over rate high and keep wages low. More profit for the upper tier. I switched to sprint and U-verse is just plain slow.
  • at@t is really that bad
    As an employee of four years of uverse everything at this place is your fault from getting hurt to bad modems ....I would say AT@T is spends mega millions fighting off all the lawsuits from employees, board of labor, etc from laws that they daily break......good luck to the employees
  • There are dozens of these cases
    I am an 18 year employee of AT&T. A one day suspension for an occupational injury is a well known practice at AT&T. No doubt, it causes employees to not report workplace injuries. I personally know two coworkers who were suspended. One for cutting his hand on a sharp wire and one for tripping and spraining his knee while walking across a field. A third employee was actually suspended for being stung by a bee and not having an epipen. All of the suspended rmploees have been union members which highlights the toxic relationship between AT&T and its bargained for employees.
  • A real issue.
    As a 20 year AT&T employee from Michigan, it may be true that policies and procedures are vetted by "educated" people but when you roll that out to the ground level and associate a managers "bonuses" to whether or not your crew has any work related injury within a year a paradigm is created where human nature takes over and individuals have pay taken away with little or no thought that uses facts, logic and reason.
  • what did you read?
    nowhere in the article does it say the at&t employees were fired? it says the were each suspended for a day, and if you take everything at face value, the day off was for violating policies. may be a harsh punishment, but sometimes harsh is more effective than soft. as if at&t is like other companies, loaded with lawyers and human resource professionals, those policies are both vetted abnd well-known. this lawsuit smells like a ploy to get a&t to use a softer, gentler machine-gun hand. both sides will come to middle-ground.
    • Risk Manager
      Are you telling me there was no input from Risk Management, HR or in-house legal? What were these people thinking? If any of the above knew about this and didn't advise management about the potential liability, they should be fired. Come on, this is the twenty-first century. Even if you think the injury is phony, you can't just fire them, you've got to be able to document everything.
      • Yes - 'bout time someone went after AT&T
        As far as the U-verse/tv bundling, I cannot comment on AT&T (as I would never have called them in the first place). They could not possibly be any worse in customer service in that arena that Direc TV. As a customer on the business side though, I have never had a worse experience and can't wait until our contract is up. They were unimaginable to work with. I hope they lose lots of money (and not just "monopoly money". Nice to know at least they are an equal opportunity employer - they treat their employees just as badly as they do their customers.
      • Hurrah for Greg Z -and why
        Hurrah for Greg Z for having the guts to go after AT&T (stands for Avaricious/non-Trustworty and Terrible). In the annus horribilius (2 yrs plus) since I was bait/switched into ATT U-verse bundle, my repetitive service failures etc has created a revolving door of perhaps 20 or more WONDERFUL, HONEST AT&T techs--including the poor overburdened initial installer who came at 3 p.m. and still working after midnight, Each and every one off-the-record confirmed ATT "selling services it cannot deliver..." with result "the customers take it out on us when we cannot service what was promised. I kept names of a dozen or so--one offered to provide deposition form my IURC complaint,soon as he got new job;another told me (and he was right!) they had lied re the telephone , that it had knocked out my ADT protective system because of the lie and added: "I would not let my aged mother have one..." taking me back to the over-priced land line. AT&T most recently is again over-selling a home security system--already internet has posted examples of how system permits ACCESS to the cameras because of faulty something or other. The elderly are targets for ATT overpriced and over-sold bundles-the dehumanized robot-phone number does NOT work (hours on hold)--what's wrong with a phone company which customers CAN NOT reach by telephone?????

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