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Woman was fired for raising asbestos concerns, lawsuit claims

A former employee of a career and technical school has filed a lawsuit against the school, alleging that she was fired because she raised concerns about asbestos exposure in school buildings and the potential effects of that exposure on students and staff. School officials deny the allegations, stating that performance issues and violations of school policies were the reasons for the employee's firing.

According to the lawsuit, the employee learned of the asbestos exposure from a 2009 independent investigation, which found that several teachers and students may have been exposed to asbestos while remodeling a school-owned home. The investigation reported that school administrators were aware of the asbestos contamination, but took little effective action to warn people of the potential exposure.

After learning of the asbestos exposure in the home and in other school buildings, the employee and another teacher began attending joint operating committee meetings to voice their concerns about the asbestos. Both were disciplined, the lawsuit claims, and the employee was suspended for 10 days in early 2010.

Following her suspension, the employee's job duties and ability to perform those duties were significantly diminished. In June, she was given a poor job evaluation, setting off a chain of events that led to her suspension without pay in August 2010 and fired the following November. It is not known if the other teacher suffered similar harm.

According to the lawsuit, the woman was not given any proof of her poor job performance or an opportunity to correct her alleged deficiencies prior to her firing. She is seeking punitive damages.

Source: The Express-Times, "Former Bethlehem vo-tech employee claims she was fired over concerns about asbestos," Sara K. Satullo, Oct. 27, 2012

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