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Thursday, June 20, 2024 | Back issues
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Hardly a Nice Place to Work

CHICAGO (CN) - A former employee sued a child-care business, claiming it fired him for insisting that it repair dangerous playground equipment and that when he asked to be paid for overtime his boss threatened to "rip (his) arm off and beat his black ass."

Michael Johnson sued Knowledge Universe Education fka Knowledge Learning Corp., which operated the KinderCare Learning Center where he worked.

Knowledge Universe operates more than 1,600 KinderCare centers, it says on its website.

Johnson says in his federal complaint that the company stiffed him for overtime since he began working for it in January 2011.

"Beginning in July 2011, Michael began complaining to his superiors and other appropriate KU employees both orally and in writing that KU was not paying him for his OT hours," the complaint states.

"Within days after Michael's first complaint about KU's failure to pay him for his OT hours, Michael's supervisor threatened to fire him if he did not continue to perform work off of the clock.

"On September 16, 2011, Michael's supervisor again threatened Michaels's job for his overtime complaints. The supervisor also threatened to 'rip [Michael]'s arm off and beat his black ass' with it."

Johnson says he reported this comment to human resources.

Three says later, Johnson says, he told his bosses about "a severely warped and leaning play structure at one of his play centers." He says they told him to fix it himself, but he said that his "disassembling the playground equipment would not be in compliance with OSHA standards. Michael's supervisor replied by calling Michael 'the company's biggest whistle blower,' and making other inappropriate and unhelpful comments."

The next day he told the bosses "that yet another play center was unsafe and not in compliance with OSHA standards. ... Michael also stated that if adequate repairs were not made within 30 days, or by the time of his next visit, he would visit OSHA and ask them to investigate." He says he was fired that very day.

He seeks lost wages, front pay, and punitive damages for retaliation and wrongful firing.

He is represented by Timothy Coffey.

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