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California worker fired for alerting management of asbestos

A former U-Haul employee in San Francisco has sued the company, claiming he was fired for pointing out the presence of asbestos.


In addition to a civil suit, Mark Clemens has filled a complaint under a California law, the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, that requires businesses to post warnings about toxic substances in the workplace.


Asbestos is a known carcinogen that was widely used to make building and construction materials until the 1970s. While considered safe if left undisturbed, airborne fibers from crumbled, or friable, asbestos causes mesothelioma, an incurable cancer of the lining of the lungs and abdomen, and other respiratory illnesses. The Environmental Protection Agency considers any amount of exposure to asbestos fibers to be a heath hazard.


According to KTVU news, Clemens, who was an assistant manager at the 2,200-unit U-Haul storage facility in Bayview, warned his boss that asbestos was present in piping insulation. He says a janitor at the facility had already been terminated for alerting management about asbestos in the cleaning supply room.


Clemens told the station he wants U-Haul to remove the material to protect employees and customers. He said his boss repeatedly ignored the warnings, but ultimately “acknowledged that it was in fact here, and had been for years and years, and they had no intention of doing anything about it."


Steve Sommers, an attorney who is representing Clemens, told KTVU that "What we want to do is send a message back to U-Haul, that if you fire people for complaining about an unsafe environment, then you're gonna feel it."


Employees at the facility told KTVU that told no managers were available to respond to Clemens’s complaint.