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Monday, June 24, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

A Giant Oil Spill … and Irony, Too!

NEW ORLEANS (CN) - A worker safety supervisor during BP's oil spill cleanup says another worker attacked him after BP held a meeting to address BP's "new 'Non-Harassment' policy." Martin Schlesinger claims the attack came in response to his plan to provide portable toilets for cleanup workers, and was an act of "disregard for worker safety."

Schlesinger says he filed a police report on the advice of a police officer who saw the attack - and the report led to his being fired. He says his is still owed wages.

In his federal complaint, Schlesinger says he was employed by ES& H Inc., through BP America. His duties "primarily involved supervising worker safety at the Pascagoula, Mississippi, Deepwater Horizon oil spill clean-up command center."

According to the complaint: "On July 2, 2010 plaintiff attended a series of meetings wherein he received instructions that he was subject to and was made to follow BP's new 'Non-Harassment' policy for all workers in Pascagoula, Mississippi.

"Among the proclamations in the subject policy, BP demanded a prohibition on, among other activities, 'creating a hostile or intimidating work environment.'

"Strikingly, immediately following the meeting in which the policy was implemented, defendant [Raymond] Pitts approached plaintiff and committed an assault upon him, gesturing threateningly and screaming, which constituted threats that created in plaintiff a reasonable apprehension of bodily harm or offensive contact.

"The assault was precipitated solely by Pitt's disregard for worker safety, and particularly plaintiff's plan to provide portable toilet facilities for clean-up workers which Pitts perceived as interfering with his specified area of responsibility.

"Plaintiff was advised by a Pascagoula police officer that witnessed the assault that plaintiff should file a report related to the criminal act with the Pascagoula Police Department, and plaintiff expressed his intent to do so to one or more defendants at the scene of the assault before he filed the report.

"Subsequent to these events of July 3, 2010, two or more of the defendants herein conspired together to unlawfully terminate plaintiff before defendants informed plaintiff that his employment was terminated at the Pascagoula, Mississippi location.

"The following day, after two or more of the defendants herein discussed the events of the prior days, defendant ES&H, through two of its agents, called plaintiff to a meeting .... and informed plaintiff that if he removed the report with the Pascagoula Police Department against Pitts that was to trigger his impending arrest, that he would receive additional work and that if he did not, he would be permanently terminated.

"Having succumbed to defendants' undue pressure to act against his interests and rights under the law, plaintiff begrudgingly asked that the report made to the Pascagoula Police Department be revoked," he says.

However, Schlesinger says, "After the report of the criminal act was revoked, defendants, through ES&H's sister company, TLF, supplied plaintiff with token, less profitable work for a short amount of time until, in a continuing act of illegal conduct, plaintiff was terminated again based on plaintiff's cooperating with governmental authorities related to oil spill clean up work."

To add insult to injury, Schlesinger says, BP failed to pay his final wages, and "upon learning that his full wages had not been paid by defendants ... [and] in a final act of retaliation, defendants refused to pay the entirety of plaintiff's earned salary during the time of his employment with defendants."

Schlesinger says he also is owed time and a half for the overtime he put in "on approximately a weekly basis."

He sued ES& H, Team Labor Force, O'Brien's Response Management, BP America, and Raymond Pitts.

He is represented by Jody Forester Jackson of New Orleans.

Follow @SabrinaCanfiel2
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