The maintenance manager for a Portland, Oregon property management company that’s been under fire for asbestos violations told a local news station this week that he has been fired from his job, several months after ordering asbestos testing to verify the presence of the toxic mineral.
Jason Eaton spoke with a reporter at KOIN 6 News and said he was fired last Wednesday, about six months after discovering asbestos during renovations at the Commons at Sylvan Highlands, a large apartment complex operated by Tandem Property Management.
Eaton said he had directed an employee to have the building material tested by a licensed company, a process which he said showed there were unsafe levels of asbestos throughout various places in the complex.
Eaton is the third employee of Tandem Property Management to be wrongfully terminated after blowing the whistle about the presence of asbestos.
He told KOIN 6 News that he would now be joining a lawsuit being brought by the other two former employees, Khataun Thompson and Alyssa DeWeese.
Thompson worked in maintenance and DeWeese in the rental office. The latter was fired after she was asked to engage in “intimidation and retaliation” against another employee who knew about the asbestos problem. She refused.
Eaton claims similar tactics. He says that within minutes after he participated in Oregon OSHA’s investigation into the asbestos, he received two inaccurate write-ups about his work performance.
Prior to that, however, he had been the recipient of multiple promotions and was lauded several times for his exemplary work.
Other staff members witnessed the harassment and reported it to the Bureau of Labor and Industries. One colleague of Eaton’s stated that vice-president of apartment operations Tonya Tiedemann “began to bully and threaten Eaton, creating a stressful work environment for Eaton and the rest of the staff.”
In the meantime, while the renovations that revealed the asbestos were going on, none of the tenants in the complex knew they were at risk for exposure.
A complaint seeking a class-action lawsuit on behalf of the residents of Commons at Sylvan Highlands who may have been exposed to asbestos has since been filed.
Though Oregon OSHA hasn’t definitively revealed the presence of the toxin because the investigation is ongoing, it seems that employees were quite sure that there was a problem and did the right thing by alerting the higher-ups, who they thought would care about the situation.
Little did they know that it would turn into a mean and nasty battle with management, a battle from which they hope they will emerge victorious…simply because they know they did what was right in order to protect others.