(MAYFIELD, Ky.) — Workers at the Mayfield Consumer Products candle factory where eight people were killed by tornadoes last weekend filed a class-action lawsuit against their employer late Wednesday night.
The factory was destroyed when tornadoes tore through nine states, leaving 89 people dead.
The lawsuit, filed in the Graves Circuit Court in Kentucky by Elijah Johnson and 109 other “similarly situated employees,” alleges that the candle factory required them to continue working, even with the threat of an expected dangerous tornado.
One employee claimed she was threatened with disciplinary action if she went home early on the night tornadoes were expected.
The candle factory allegedly threatened to fire any employees that left because of the expected tornado, just hours before it destroyed the factory, the lawsuit claims.
The lawsuit claims the factory showed “flagrant indifference to the rights of Plaintiff Johnson and to the other similarly situated Plaintiffs with a subjective awareness that such conduct will result in human death and/or bodily injuries.”
Workers were allegedly not informed of the danger of the incoming tornado nor did supervisors tell them what was “really going on,” according to the court filing.
Mayfield Consumer Products CEO Troy Propes said the company is establishing an emergency fund to assist employees and their families.
The employees are seeking a jury trial, compensation, punitive damages and legal fees, all with interest.
“Management at that factory caused, oversaw, and facilitated a shirking of decency with regard to duties of care, and faithful employees are now injured or dead, two weekends before Christmas,” Attorney William Davis said in a statement released on Tuesday.
Propes told ABC News that the company is conducting an independent review of procedures separate from an investigation by the governor’s office and will review methods and procedures to see that they were properly followed.
In previous news reports, the factory denied that workers were threatened.
“It’s absolutely untrue,” Bob Ferguson, a spokesman for Mayfield Consumer Products told NBC News. “We’ve had a policy in place since COVID began. Employees can leave any time they want to leave and they can come back the next day.”
Ferguson told NBC News that managers and team leaders undergo a series of emergency drills that follow guidelines of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
“Those protocols are in place and were followed,” he said.
He denied that managers told employees that leaving their shifts meant risking their jobs, according to NBC News.
A spokesperson for Mayfield Consumer Products did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.
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