Whistleblower at Georgia Pacific Mills Fired After Reporting Serious Safety Concerns

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Engineering Department Manager was retaliated against and wrongfully terminated as a result of reporting serious safety concerns about one of Georgia Pacific's (GP) mills in Camas, Washington.

Engineering Department Manager L. Dwight Markham Jr., P.E. made several reports to local management at the Camas, Washington facility about serious safety concerns. One of GP's primary passenger elevators at the mill had trapped several employees, vendors, and contractors between floors on numerous occasions. In some cases, the faulty elevator had suspended its terrified passengers between floors for as long as 20 minutes.

Mr. Markham reported the safety concerns to local management, and received assurances that the necessary repairs had been completed to restore safe operation to the faulty elevator. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Markham was trapped between floors in the problematic elevator for a period of 40 minutes. Following this harrowing experience, an investigation revealed that no professional repairs had been made. In accordance with Georgia Pacific Mills (GP)'s written policy, Mr. Markham lodged an internal complaint with GP's legal department and notified Camas mill Manager of Engineering and Maintenance, Defendant Kevin Heath of his actions.

Within weeks of reporting the serious safety concerns about the elevator and following GP's policy of lodging a formal complaint, Mr. Markham began suffering retaliation as a result of his report of the safety violations. He was demoted from his position of Engineering Department Manager and relegated to a clerical position in a makeshift office in the basement storeroom.

After subsequently being terminated on October 15, 2004, Mr. Markham again followed GP's written safety and ethics policy and requested a formal investigation. Despite GP's awareness that the elevator currently presented a health and safety threat to employees and the public, GP notified Mr. Markham in writing that it found “no merit” to his safety allegations. After Mr. Markham refused to sign GP's separation and release agreement, a waiver of all legal rights and claims against GP, GP elected to withhold all vacation pay accrued by Mr. Markham at the time of termination.

After Mr. Markham exhausted all due process within GP's “Workplace Safety” policy, he reported the safety concerns to the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries. The Department of Labor and Industries found serious safety violations consistent with Mr. Markham's reports and flagged the elevator to be taken out of operations until proper repairs could be made. GP failed to make the necessary repairs, and upon re-inspection, the elevator was taken out of service.

Mr. Markham has filed a lawsuit for Wrongful Termination and Unpaid Wages in Clark County Superior Court (Case # 05-2-01724-8) through his attorneys, Gregory D. Ferguson and Scott T. Deutsch, of The Law Offices of Gregory D. Ferguson, PC.

For more information, the complaint can be located at http://www.courts.wa.gov, visit http://www.greg-ferguson.com or contact the Law Offices at 360-906-1167.

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