A Bronx salon was sued by the federal government in April 2015, after an employee was fired for reportedly warning her coworkers about a potential health hazard regarding some of the salon's products.
The salon has now settled the lawsuit, and was directed by the Labor Department to pay the employee compensation and lost wages, according to CBS New York.
The Riverdale Press reports that office manager Valerie Connolly began noticing negative changes to her health after the salon introduced "keratin" and "Brazilian" hair straightening treatments in 2011.
Initially, Connolly was unable to determine the source and attempted to ignore the pain, but eventually it became too much of a burden.
“Problems breathing. I was bringing my son into school one day, and I could barely make it to the door,” Connolly told CBS New York. “I never had asthma before.”
The pain reached its apex in June 2012, when Connolly was reportedly told by one of her doctors that she may have been exposed to formaldehyde.
Doing some independent research on her salon's products, Connolly found that the keratin and Brazilian hair treatments did, in fact, contain formaldehyde, which can lead to skin reactions and respiratory problems, in addition to being a carcinogenic.
Connolly says that when she moved to distribute an OSHA fact sheet detailing the safety hazards of formaldehyde to her coworkers, the salon owner fired her.
Connolly was let go from her job on June 30, 2012 and the official reason for her termination was that she was “spreading rumors to customers and staff that chemicals used in the salon were unsafe.”
After being fired, Connolly went to see another doctor, where it was confirmed that she had been exposed to formaldehyde. She then began the process of bringing a legal case against Salon Zoe.
CBS New York reported that the Department of Labor filed a lawsuit against the salon in April 2015. The salon decided to settle, which was announced on Nov. 30. The business was directed to pay Connolly $65,000 in lost wages and $100,000 in compensation for pain and suffering.
Jeffrey Rogoff, regional solicitor of labor in New York, said of the case:
“There’s a simple message here: Don’t fire, discriminate or retaliate against your employees when they raise legitimate health and safety issues; there will be consequences. The department will pursue appropriate legal actions, including lawsuits, to ensure that workers’ rights are protected.”