A local automotive shop is being sued by the Indiana Department of Labor for allegedly firing two employees for complaining about unsafe working conditions.
Recently filed in St. Joseph Circuit Court, the lawsuit claims that Ziebart Speedy Auto Glass franchise owner Jeff Miller fired Debra Derbin and Deb Harvey on September 11 in retaliation for complaints that they filed with the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
The business repairs and sells cars and offers other automotive aftermarket services and products, such as undercoating, the suit states.
Then a sales representative, Harvey, in August filed a complaint with IOSHA alleging defective vehicle lifts posed a crushing hazard for employees and there was insufficient ventilation for the workers. She also reported employees were made to wear dust masks without training and employees were medically evaluated for employee respirator use.
After receiving the complaint an IOSHA inspector visited the Goshen shop and “legitimized” Harvey’s complaint states the lawsuit.
Derbin, the office manger, reported to IOSHA that an employee was suffering with breathing problems due to the poor ventilation.
Miller said he fired Derbin and Harvey “based upon their respective attitudes and insubordination to Miller in separate conversations,” on September 11th, alleges the lawsuit.
After being fired, the women filed a discrimination complaint with IOSHA.
Staci Schneider, spokeswoman for the Indiana attorney general’s office, declined to disclose details regarding why the state believes the firings were retaliatory.
“I won’t share the evidence with you … but we have looked at the case, and based on the evidence and the information from the individuals we’ve spoken to, we believe there is sufficient evidence to proceed in court,” Schneider said.
Miller, the owner, had yet to file a response in court.
A jury trial has been requested by the state. Harvey and Derbin seek cash damages to compensate them for back pay, benefits and expenses incurred as a result from being fired, as well as punitive damage which is intended to punish the defendant.
Additionally, the lawsuit asks Judge Gotsch to order the company to destroy all records relating to the firings and to enter an injunction that prohibits it from discriminating against employees that file safety complaints.