Employees at the candle factory, which was destroyed in a devastating 2021 tornado, claim that their supervisors threatened to fire them if they went home amidst severe weather alerts and tornado warnings.
Employees at a Kentucky candle factory have filed another lawsuit against the company’s owner, claiming workers who asked to leave during a severe storm were threatened with termination.
As LegalReader.com has reported before, the factory was eventually hit by a tornado, which destroyed the building and killed nine employees.
In their lawsuit, the employees claim that the candle factory “refused” to let workers leave, “even though it had at least three hours of notice of the danger this tornado posed to its place of business and to its employees.”
The plaintiffs, adds ABC News, include the family members of three workers who died in the December 2021 tornado.
The complaint broadly alleges that the candle factory, owned by Mayfield Consumer Products, “repeatedly threatened” to fire any employee who left the facility without permission.
The workers also claim that Mayfield failed to train its employees in emergency safety protocols and had only one hallway and two restrooms that could be used as tornado shelters.
The lawsuit requests compensatory damages for an assortment of offenses, including false imprisonment and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
According to The Louisville Courier Journal, the plaintiffs also state that Mayfield Consumer Products refused to pay injured employees’ medical bills and actively reduced workers’ compensation benefits for those who participated in an Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigation.
OSHA, notes the Courier Journal, eventually levied a $40,000 fine against Mayfield for seven violations relating to emergency action plans, exit routes, and pathogen exposure.
Attorneys for the workers say that the candle company has aggressively targeted employees who assisted OSHA, with the result being “an onslaught of collection activity against survivors by an Evansville, Indiana-based collection agency demanding thousands from numerous former workers who had participated in safety investigations after the factory collapsed on them.”
Mayfield Consumer Products has repeatedly denied any and all wrongdoing, saying that company policy allowed employees to vacate the premises after signing out with their supervisors.
“In fact, several employees signed out after the first tornado warning,” Mayfield Consumer Products C.E.O. Troy Popes told the Courier Journal. “When a tornado warning starts, we have a shelter-in-place policy and implement it as required by federal law.”
Nevertheless, the lawsuit states that Mayfield supervisors—including Justin Bobbitt, the only individually named defendant—repeatedly threatened employees who had asked to leave the facility.
Popes has since called Bobbitt a “hero,” saying that Mayfield will defend all claims against him.
“I noticed that Justin Bobbitt was named in the complaint,” Popes told the Journal Courier. “Justin and all the supervisors were heroes that night and MCP will zealously defend them and Mr. Bobbitt.”