Employees allege in a $40 million lawsuit that the managers of a Southwest Portland Apartment Complex endangered them by exposing them to asbestos even though constructions crews had warned about the presence of asbestos.
According to reports, two former employees of Tandem Property Management filed a lawsuit Monday. They claim they were fired by the company in retaliation for knowing about the cover-up of the presence of asbestos at the Commons at Sylvan Highland Apartments.
Thomas Clarey, the President of the company, did not immediately return messages for comment.
A lawyer for the plaintiffs said he does not believe the residents of 1380 S.W. 66th Ave have been notified about the asbestos.
The lawsuit claims that while crews were remodeling five vacant apartment in May, they discovered what appeared to be asbestos. The lawsuit continues to allege that the company’s president was furious. He visited the site, “yelling that there was no asbestos and that they all needed to get back to work,” the suit says.
Three of the workers were removed from the job and within a few days were fired because management thought “they were ‘loose cannons’ that might call the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) about the potential asbestos,” the suit says.
According to the suit, in June management directed a new crew to carry debris through the building’s halls and down its elevator. This crew also discovered an indication of asbestos. Someone on the crew tested a sample, which tested positive for the dangerous fibers.
The crew notified management, but the next day, management told two employees to remove the asbestos-laden sheetrock without proper protective gear or training, the suit claims.
Michael Fuller, a Portland attorney who filed the lawsuit, represents Khataun Thompson, an apartment groundskeeper who was asked to work on one of the renovation teams. The suit alleges that Thompson was removed from the project and subsequently fired in July because he knew about the asbestos, and because he is black.
The suits says that Thompson filed an OSHA complaint about the asbestos. An OSHA spokesman couldn’t immediately be reached for more information.
Fuller also is representing Thompson’s fiancee, Alyssa DeWeese, a leasing agent who contends she was fired in July as retaliation after she found out about the asbestos.
Asbestos has known carcinogen for a long time, and is believed to be so dangerous that even brief exposures can develop into life-threatening diseases decades later. Public pressure has mounted in recent years to tighten controls, and government regulations outline specific procedures for properly removing asbestos, which can be time-consuming and expensive.
Government officials take the proper handling of asbestos so seriously that in recent years, at least two Oregon businessmen have been convicted of crimes for their mishandling of asbestos removal projects.
In 2012, developer Daniel Desler was convicted for negligently releasing asbestos into the air as he tried to redevelop an old sawmill in Sweet Home into a housing development.
In 2015, real estate agent Bill Gaffney was convicted of recklessly endangering others after hiring untrained day laborers to remove asbestos-laden materials from a Southeast house he was remodeling.
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