Carpenter Says He was Fired after Questioning Asbestos Exposure

A carpenter for the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut alleges that he was unjustly fired after questioning whether or not he was exposed to asbestos while removing floor tiles by hand.

According to an article in The Day, the carpenter, LeRoy Falconi Jr., removed the tiles and then became concerned about asbestos contamination. After Falconi brought the potential exposure issue to the attention of academy maintenance personnel, the academy hired an air quality consultant who tested the area and found that the tiles did not contain asbestos but the underlying mastic or glue did. A licensed asbestos contractor was hired to clean the area and dispose of the material, according to the article.

After doing the work, Falconi asked academy officials for asbestos documentation for the two rooms in which he worked. He was given a 14-year-old asbestos survey and a pink slip, alleging he was not “fit for duty” due to health reasons unrelated to asbestos.

His removal was unfair, Falconi claims, and his lawyer, Donald L. Williams of Groton, said he is “evaluating all potential claims that could be made against the academy on Falconi’s behalf, including violation of Falconi’s rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act, federal whistle blowing guidelines, negligence on the asbestos issue, improper medical diagnosis and subsequent wrongful termination.”

School officials claim that that Falconi’s termination had nothing to do with his concern about being exposed to asbestos.

“We’re always very happy if our employees tell us about anything that can help us improve our safety programs,” said Capt. Jay Phillips, the academy’s chief facilities engineer.

“Since the academy is a very old facility, we do have asbestos tiles and mastic, which is the glue, in many locations,” he said. “Almost everywhere, if a tile is a 9 by 9 size, it contains asbestos.”

Phillips said the academy would “never knowingly assign anyone to work in a hazardous environment,” but did confirm that Falconi and another employee performed the work in question.
“There was little or no dust associated with the work. There was certainly no grinding or work that would create dust or make any of what we later found to be asbestos-containing mastic friable,” Phillips said.

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