NOTE: This is a repost from the Toxic Torts folder, as I'm not sure which subheading it best belongs under. Moderators, feel free to move or delete one of the two posts if it doesn't belong in both folders.
What is the name of your state (only U.S. law)? Montana
I have a couple of questions related to a potential unsafe work environment lawsuit. I understand that this forum is just for discussion and not for legal advice, but I would like to get some input into this situation from those who are experienced in the legal field.
I have had an ongoing problem with my employer's attempts to renovate our building without taking the proper safety precautions. In August, my employer attempted to remove an old boiler from the building using handtools and volunteer labor, with the admitted knowledge that the boiler contained asbestos. I contacted the DEQ and the project was halted until an inspection was performed and the asbestos removed by a professional abatement team. Recently, my employer has begun a new construction project that involves demolishing a room adjacent to my office, as well as two public bathrooms and two storage closests that stand in the hallway that I have to walk through every morning to access my office. When I asked one of the gentlemen in charge of the project how the possibility of asbestos was being handled, he said: "Most of the asbestos was in the boiler room, and we already took care of that, so it will be fine." I also asked how he was planning to remove the flooring tiles in the bathrooms and closests, as these have been confirmed to contain asbestos in the tile and glue (this is documented). I was told that since the asbestos was "nonairable," the tiles could simply be removed by volunteer labor and then thrown away. Not content with his answer, I had another individual contacted who is in charge of the project and asked if the rooms to be demolished had been inspected for asbestos, lead paint, and other potentially hazardous airborne materials. I was told that the rooms had been inspected back in August by the same woman who had inspected the boiler room.
To make a long story short, I spoke with the state DEQ today, and the gentleman I spoke with confirmed that no inspection had taken place in August (the inspector had only checked the boiler room, since that was the project she had been hired to deal with). Furthermore, the flooring tiles cannot simply be torn up. While they can be removed by volunteers, 8 hrs of training is required by each individual who will be removing the tiles, and 40 hours of training is required for their supervisor. This has not taken place. According to the DEQ, my employer is also in violation of OSHA rules for not having reported on the situation and inspection results to myself and the other employees in the building.
My two questions are:
1) Can I attempt to sue my employer for negligence in creating a potentially unsafe work environment, given that this is the second time this has happened and that all parties were aware of the situation?
2) Demolition of the walls in largest room began on Monday. I do not know whether asbestos was released into the air or not, as no inspection was performed prior to the demolition. I am not willing to re-enter the work area until it is confirmed and documented that no asbestos was present in the room at the time that the walls and cieling were torn down. I have called in 'sick' throughout this week as I've investigated the situation. Should I continue to call in 'sick,' or should I inform my employer that I won't be coming into the office until the situation is resolved? Can my employer terminate me for this? Is my employer required to pay me for the weeks that I am unable to safely access the workplace?