There are a number of protections that employees have when it comes to speaking out against unfair or unsafe practices on the job. In many cases, these workers have concerns regarding safety or illegal behavior by employers, and some employers choose to dismiss these concerns or, even worse, punish the person who spoke up against the situation.
One of the most negligent things that an employer can do is to ignore concerns regarding the safety of a work environment. Under some conditions, such is the case with asbestos, a dangerous worksite can result in serious illnesses that can cause long-lasting medical issues for workers. In cases when an employer or property owner knows or should know about dangerous asbestos exposure and does nothing to protect workers, employees may have grounds for a premises liability lawsuit.
Not all employers take this responsibility seriously. According to one woman, not only did her employers know that she and other workers had been exposed to asbestos, but they then unfairly fired her after she voiced her concern regarding asbestos.
The situation started in 2009 when an investigation found that students and teachers at the vocational-technical school where the woman worked had become exposed to asbestos during a remodeling project. Even after the investigation, school administrators failed to properly warn others of the presence of asbestos or take the appropriate steps to keep others away from the affected area.
The woman learned of this reckless behavior and spoke out about the negligence in addressing the asbestos. At first, the woman was suspended for 10 days. When she returned, she was subjected to a hostile work environment, given a poor job review and was ultimately informed that she would be fired. According to a lawsuit that the woman filed, she was wrongfully fired for expressing her concern about the presence of asbestos on school grounds, as well as her dissatisfaction with how school administrators and property owners have handled the situation.
The threat of asbestos exposure at work should be taken very seriously by employers as well as others who are responsible for the safety of the premises. When they act irresponsibly or unlawfully penalize those who are outspoken about the issue, they may not only be violating employment laws but premises liability laws as well and should be held accountable.
Source: lehighvalleylive.com, “Former Bethlehem vo-tech employee claims she was fired over concerns about asbestos,” Sara K. Satullo, Oct. 7, 2012