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Beef-jerky plant employee dismissed after a phone call to 911 about a severed thumb, lawsuit claims

The owner of a now-closed beef-jerky-maker is being sued by the federal government for firing an employee who tried to call 911 to help a colleague with a broken thumb.

John M. Bachman, owner of the Lone Star Western Beef plant in Fairmont, could be forced to pay back wages and punitive damages to the employee as a result of the lawsuit, the U.S. Labor Department filed Thursday against him and his company in federal court in Clarksburg.

The lawsuit said that when a band saw separated part of an employee’s right thumb in July 2014, his co-worker applied pressure on the wound while using her cell phone to call 911. But before responders could answer, Bachman allegedly ordered her to hang out, and she was fired two days later.

Instead of calling an ambulance, Bachman collected the severed part of Chris Crane thumb and told a supervisor to take him to an urgent care clinic. Crane was eventually transferred to a hospital, where efforts to get back to the thumb were unsuccessful, the lawsuit said.

The co-worker, Michele Butler-Savage, told a U.S. agriculture inspector later that day that Bachman is not completely clean or disinfect the area of the plant where the accident happened. She also mentioned a lack of personal protective equipment. After she was fired, she filed a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, that the company violated federal whistleblower protections for employees who report violations of the law.

OSHA regional administrator Richard Mendelson said Butler-Savage’s attempt to show “basic human decency” is protected under the federal safety and health laws.

“Lone Star Western Beef to be punished with an employee, looking for urgent medical care for a seriously injured colleague,” Mendelson said. “No employee should fear retaliation from their employer for calling 911 in an emergency, or take other measures to report the safety or health of an incident.”

Bachman did not immediately return a message left at a phone number in the list on the website of the company. In January 2015, the factory closed and moved to Reading, Pennsylvania, the Labor Department said.

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