- Associated Press - Thursday, June 30, 2016

DEARBORN HEIGHTS, Mich. (AP) - A Detroit-area school district has been ordered to pay $193,000 to a janitor who said she was punished when she complained about asbestos.

Theresa Ely said she feels vindicated by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which ordered back pay and other compensation.

The government said Ely complained in 2012 about exposure to asbestos while cleaning floor tiles at Annapolis High School in Dearborn Heights and suffered layoffs, extra work and a lack of pay raises. She also was reprimanded after filing complaints with state and federal regulators.

“No worker should be harassed or punished for reporting unsafe working conditions,” Ken Nishiyama Atha, OSHA’s regional administrator in Chicago, said in a statement Thursday.

OSHA said Dearborn Heights District No. 7 feared a loss of students if Ely’s concerns became public.

“I feel very good. … The money is great, but it’s not what I needed most,” Ely told the Detroit Free Press.

If it disagrees with the OSHA finding, the district has 30 days to seek a hearing with an administrative law judge.

Superintendent John Fazer did not immediately return a call and email seeking comment. He told the Free Press earlier this year that he doesn’t believe there was any asbestos exposure, although he wasn’t with the district at the time.

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