New York Plumber Fired for Complaining About Asbestos

A plumber at the Richmond University Medical Center in Staten Island, New York filed an asbestos lawsuit last month, claiming that he was fired after raising too many concerns regarding asbestos safety.

According to court reports, 33-year-old James Pepe claims that he was repeatedly denied requests for protective gear for asbestos exposure by both hospital officials and supervisors. The alleged reason for denying Pepe’s request is that it would cost “too much money,” even though Pepe states that asbestos was found in several pipes inside the building and in the plumbing area.

Consequently, Pepe filed a complaint with the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA). Afterwards, Pepe was reportedly fired from his position at the medical center and called a “clown” and “hypocrite.”

“Defendants ultimately terminated plaintiff Pepe’s employment solely because he complained that defendants were in violation of federal health and safety laws by ordering employees, including Pepe, to work in enclosed spaces with exposed asbestos without any of the required protective gear, proper notification or requisite training,” the lawsuit states.

Pepe was hired by the medical center in 2005 as a plumber. In 2007, he made complaints regarding an exorbitant amount of friable asbestos in the plumbing shop. Yet, he was reportedly told to forget about it as the hospital cannot afford an abatement project. From 2007 to 2013, Pepe was expected to work around friable asbestos, with duties that included repairing steam pipes, ceilings, and floors that were riddled with the dangerous mineral.

Anytime he would bring awareness to the issue and how he was scared that it would affect his health, Pepe alleges that his job was threatened and that he was told to just wet down the asbestos.

“Shockingly, defendants wholly ignored plaintiff Pepe’s very serious complaints of asbestos contamination in the workplace and immediately directed plaintiff Pepe to continue working in enclosed areas containing asbestos,” states the court documents.

He didn’t want to lose his job, so Pepe continued to work around asbestos. He claims he was called a hypocrite since he is a cigarette smoker complaining about asbestos exposure.

In November of last year, Pepe had finally had enough and refused to work on a steam pipe that was filled with asbestos unless the hospital provided him the appropriate protective gear. As a result, he was fired from his job, just a week after he had filed another complaint with OSHA.

Along with a lawsuit against Richmond University Medical Center, Pepe also filed suit against Mt. Sinai Hospital. He filed his case at the St. George Supreme Court. He is seeking an undisclosed amount in damages.

Keep in mind that if you or a loved one have been wrongfully exposed to asbestos, you have the legal right to seek compensatory damages against the liable party. You’ll need an experienced legal representation to ensure that all of your legal rights and options are met. To get started, contact our leading asbestos attorneys today for a free case consultation.



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