West Virginia Record

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Man sues former employer for wrongful termination

Federal Court

By Kyla Asbury | Mar 19, 2020

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Robert C. Byrd Federal Building in Charleston | Wikimedia Commons

CHARLESTON — A man is suing Niche Polymer alleging he was wrongfully terminated from his employment for making complaints about safety.

Shawn Abel was employed with Niche Polymer from July 21, 2011, until Feb. 22, 2018, according to a complaint filed in Jackson Circuit Court and then removed to U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia.

Abel claims he was responsible for training new employees and after he was promoted to junior process engineer/supervisor, he voiced his concerns regarding safety in various aspects of the workplace.

The plaintiff shared his concerns with several supervisors, including Jim Locary, Patrick Haynes and Jeremy Colman, according to the suit. 

Abel claims he noticed a lack of necessary guards on cutting machinery, machinery that was modified to run without a limit switch installed, water leaking on floors that could cause fall hazards, high voltage power cords passing through wet areas, the need for barricades to protect the plant's power center, damaged fork truck wheels, defective fork trucks, overflowing water tanks, exposed live electrical lines and insufficient safety training.

The plaintiff refused to start his extruder line until safety concerns were remedied and on more than one occasion, he was ordered to start it up despite the dangers, according to the suit.

Abel claims he began to suffer animosity in the workplace for his safety-related complaints and on Feb. 21, 2018, he was retaliated against when he began suffering from an illness and made plans to leave work early due to an illness.

"Before Mr. Abel left his office, Niche accused Mr. Abel of being under the influence of drugs," the complaint states. "Mr. Abel was ordered to undergo a drug test at River Valley Health and Wellness Center."

Abel claims he went to River Vallet to take the drug test and submitted the drug test that Niche demanded, but was told that the results were inconclusive. He was unable to take a second drug test before the facility closed that day, so he was ordered to take it the following day.

The plaintiff returned to work with the passing results from the test, but the defendant informed him his employment was being terminated because he failed to return to work with a passing result within one hour of being ordered to do so, according to the suit.

Abel claims he was terminated in retaliation for making safety complaints and the drug test issue was merely a pretext.

Abel is seeking compensatory and punitive damages with pre- and post-judgment interest. He is represented by Robert P. Lorea of Lorea Law Office in Charleston.

U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia case number: 2:20-cv-00164

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U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia Charleston Division