Workers sue tornado-hit Kentucky candle factory, say they were forced to stay

NEW YORK (REUTERS) – Workers at a Kentucky candle factory that was destroyed by a tornado last week have filed a lawsuit claiming supervisors threatened to fire employees who left work as the storm approached.

The proposed class-action lawsuit filed on Wednesday (Dec 15) in Kentucky state court claims Mayfield Consumer Products barred 110 workers from leaving the premises even though it had more than three hours’ notice before the tornado touched down.

Elijah Johnson, 20, says in the lawsuit that the company showed flagrant indifference towards workers’ safety by forcing them to remain on the job even after they expressed concerns about the approaching storm.

The lawsuit accuses the company of failing to provide a hazard-free workplace in violation of state safety regulations and seeks monetary damages on behalf of employees.

A representative of Mayfield Consumer Products did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The company has denied that it stopped employees from leaving the factory.

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear said on Tuesday that state workplace safety regulators would investigate the factory’s collapse.

A series of powerful tornadoes tore through Kentucky and neighboring states on Dec 10, killing 76 people in Kentucky and 22 in the town of Mayfield, where the candle factory is located, including eight workers at the factory.

The roof of an warehouse in Illinois collapsed, killing six workers. The US workplace safety regulator is investigating that incident.

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