Wednesday, January 19

Kentucky Candle Factory Bosses Threatened to Fire Those Fleeing Tornado, Workers Say | Kentucky

Workers at a Kentucky candle factory have said they begged managers to be allowed to leave as a deadly tornado hurtled toward them last weekend, but they say they were told they would be fired if they left their jobs.

The claim comes from several employees at the Mayfield Consumer Products factory that was destroyed in last Friday’s storm with the loss of at least eight lives. Workers told NBC News who took refuge in restrooms and hallways when they first heard the tornado warning sirens, then ordered to return to work by supervisors when they mistakenly assumed the danger had passed.

“I asked to leave and they told me they would fire me,” Elijah Johnson, 20, told NBC, claiming he was among a group of about 15 concerned colleagues who were denied permission to evacuate.

“’Even with the weather like this, are you still going to fire me?’” He said he asked his manager.

The manager responded, “Yes,” Johnson said, adding that the bosses went through a roll call to find out if anyone had already left.

Images of the remains of the scented candle factory, one of the largest employers in western Kentucky, have become symbolic of the devastation caused by the off-season tornado that killed dozens of people in multiple states. Some have already wondered why the factory was operational that night.

The workers’ claims cast an even darker shadow over the evening’s events. According to NBC, citing another night shift worker, there was a three- to four-hour pause between the sound of the first alarm and the arrival of the tornado that swept through the building, at which point it said all 110 workers should have been dispatched. home, but they weren’t. t.

Haley Conder, 29, said she was one of the employees who approached three managers again around 9 p.m. when the alarm went off for the second time.

“’You can’t go, you can’t go. You have to stay here, ‘”Conder said the managers told the group. “The situation was bad. Everyone was uncomfortable. “

McKayla Emery, 21, interviewed by NBC from her hospital bed, said she heard from a group that received a similar response earlier in the evening.

“People had wondered if they could leave or come home,” said Emery, who said he wanted to stay to buy extra time. “’If you leave, you’re more likely to get fired,’” he said they were told. “I heard that with my own ears.”

The Guardian was unable to reach representatives for Mayfield Consumer Products for comment Tuesday, but according to NBC, the company denies the allegations.

“It is absolutely false. We have had a policy since Covid started. Employees can leave anytime they want to leave and can come back the next day, ”said Bob Ferguson, a company spokesman.

Ferguson said managers had not told employees that leaving their shifts meant risking their jobs and that company management had followed the emergency protocols of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. .

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