Workers sue tornado-hit Kentucky candle factory, say they were forced to stay

Devastating outbreak of tornadoes ripped through several U.S. states
A drone picture of the Mayfield Consumer Products candle factory in the aftermath of a tornado in Mayfield, Kentucky, U.S. December 15, 2021. Picture taken with a drone. REUTERS/Adrees Latif

Dec 16 (Reuters) - Workers at a Kentucky candle factory that was destroyed by a tornado last week have filed a lawsuit claiming supervisors threatened to fire employees who left work as the storm approached.

The proposed class-action lawsuit filed Wednesday in Kentucky state court claims Mayfield Consumer Products barred 110 workers from leaving the premises even though it had more than three hours' notice before the tornado touched down.

Elijah Johnson, 20, says in the lawsuit that the company showed flagrant indifference toward workers' safety by forcing them to remain on the job even after they expressed concerns about the approaching storm.

The lawsuit accuses the company of failing to provide a hazard-free workplace in violation of state safety regulations and seeks monetary damages on behalf of employees.

A representative of Mayfield Consumer Products did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The company has denied that it stopped employees from leaving the factory.

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear said on Tuesday that state workplace safety regulators would investigate the factory's collapse.

A series of powerful tornadoes tore through Kentucky and neighboring states on Dec. 10, killing 76 people in Kentucky and 22 in the town of Mayfield, where the candle factory is located, including eight workers at the factory.

The roof of an Inc (AMZN.O) warehouse in Illinois collapsed, killing six workers. The U.S. workplace safety regulator is investigating that incident.

Reporting by Daniel Wiessner in Albany, New York, Editing by Alexia Garamfalvi and Lisa Shumaker

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Dan Wiessner (@danwiessner) reports on labor and employment and immigration law, including litigation and policy making. He can be reached at