Fired for Getting Lead Poisoning, Nine Say
SEATTLE (CN) - Nine gun range employees got lead poisoning when the owner made them sift through "massive amounts of soil laden with lead and other toxic chemicals" to reclaim bullets - then fired them for filing worker's comp claims, the men claim in court.
Lead plaintiff Matthew Olson sued Bellevue Indoor Gun Range and its owner Wade Gaughran, in King County Court.
Olson and his co-workers say they weren't given proper safety equipment and were ordered to work at night "to avoid detection" by safety and environmental officials.
The gun range began a remodeling project in September 2012 that required removal of the lead-filled soil, the complaint states.
"The project required moving massive amounts of soil laden with lead and other toxic chemicals, and required use of heavy machinery in fully enclosed and poorly ventilated areas, in clear violation of state and federal safety standards. Defendants required plaintiffs to perform most of the work at night to avoid detection," according to the complaint.
The workers say they sifted through 500 tons of sand and lead to reclaim the lead for resale, but were not given any training or protective gear.
"Rather than hire individuals and companies experienced and qualified to handle this work, defendants compelled plaintiffs to do so without providing proper training, equipment, or protective clothing. Although plaintiffs raised concerns regarding their health and safety, as well as environmental protection, defendants falsely assured them that public agencies such as Washington State Labor & Industries, OSHA and the EPA, had reviewed the scope of work and given the project their blessing," according to the complaint.
The employees claim that lead was "simply washed into public storm drains or vacuumed into shop vacs and dumped down the hill parallel to defendant's property on the Bel-Red Road."
By October the employees were getting sick. They say medical tests determined they were suffering from lead poisoning.
"Beginning in late October, plaintiffs noticed that they were suffering from ill health and were tested by medical offices. One by one, each of them sought testing and received results demonstrating significant lead poisoning. They also began raising safety and environmental concerns with public agencies responsible for workplace safety and the environment," the complaint states.
The workers say they were fired in retaliation for making the complaints and filing worker's compensation claims. They claim the gun range and defendant Gaughran "knew that some injury was certain to occur to plaintiffs through the pervasive and unprotected exposure to toxic chemicals, and acted in total disregard of that knowledge."
Plaintiffs Matthew Olson, Evan Zonnefeld, Schuyler Taylor, Trevor Olson, Erik Mak, Andres Martinez, Douglas McClelland, Leonard Waters and Matthew Park seek general and special damages for assault, retaliatory and constructive discharge and outrage.
They are represented by Jacqueline McMahon of Everett.