Class Claims Marriott Tramples on Safety

     WASHINGTON (CN) – A class action claims Marriott International makes its housekeepers use hazardous chemicals, denies the chemicals are hazardous at all, and threatens to fire them if they complain about it.
     In addition to threatening to fire anyone who complains about the chemicals, Marriott forced its cleaning crew, many of whom do not speak English, to sign documents in English they do not understand, the class claims in Superior Court.
     Lead plaintiff Rosa Arias says in the June 15 lawsuit that she began working for Marriott in 2003. She says Marriott never provided her or her coworkers with any warning that the chemicals they to clean bathrooms and hotel rooms are hazardous, nor any training in how to use them.
     The chemicals irritated her eyes and throat so badly she sought medical treatment. She says she was diagnosed with “heart or respiratory complications” and requested and received four months of leave from Marriott.
     The complaint lists seven dangerous housekeepers must use, four of which come with warnings to wear protective clothing such as a respirator, glasses or both, and one of warns users to wash any clothing the chemical comes in contact before wearing it again.
     “Each time after plaintiff and class members used the aforementioned chemicals, they immediately felt physical discomfort in berating [sic: recte breathing] and eye irritation,” the complaint states.
     Arias was fired on May 15, the day before she was to return to work.
     She was fired 15 days after she gave a deposition in another lawsuit against Marriott, cited in the present complaint. Among other things, Arias testified that the hotel disguised the hazardous chemicals by forcing employees to transfer them into bottles without warning labels.
     “As time progressed, plaintiff experienced increased problems berthing [sic], congestion in her chest and severe irritation in her eyes and throat,” the complaint states.
     When employees complained of irritation from the chemicals, hotel management made them sign liability waivers or be fired, Arias says: “Specifically, plaintiff and the class members were told they had no legal rights.”
     Marriott did not respond to a request for comment.
     Arias seeks class certification and damages for breach of contract, negligent and fraudulent concealment, racial discrimination, wrongful firing, breach of faith, civil rights violations, intentional infliction of physical and mental distress, and labor violations.
     They also seek an injunction ordering Marriott to provide its cleaning staff with proper protective and monitoring equipment for working with hazardous chemicals, labels in any language its employees speak, and physical examinations for employees who work with the chemicals.
     Statutory damages of $10,000 per day for violating federal law on hazardous workplace chemicals comes to $43.8 million for violating Arias’s rights alone, according to the complaint.
     Arias is represented by Harry T. Spikes Sr.

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