A whistleblower lawsuit revolving around a youth organization’s knowing exposure of youth offenders to asbestos has resulted in the reporting employee being awarded $250,000 by a Marion County, Oregon jury. The case was filed against the Oregon Youth Authority and accused them of exposing both workers and students to the carcinogenic material who were tasked with working on a $52 million project remodeling cottages and other buildings at the MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility in Woodburn, Oregon.
The whistleblower lawsuit was filed by 56-year-old John Neves, who was acting as supervisor to six youth offenders on the project. When the project uncovered asbestos, his supervisor ordered him to cover it up immediately before a walking tour went through the area. He quickly realized that the young people in his charge were being put at risk for malignant mesothelioma, asbestosis and asbestos-related lung cancer, and confronted his own supervisor about the issue. Shortly thereafter he was placed on paid administrative leave.
Asbestos Exposure Leads to Whistleblower Lawsuit
According to his whistleblower lawsuit, after being put on administrative leave, Neves filed a complaint about the asbestos exposure with Oregon OSHA. The youth organization was subsequently cited and fined $500 for violations of the Oregon Safe Employment Act. Four days later the organization fired him, accusing him of having helped to create or failing to notice drug spots that the youth were using for contraband.
Prior to winning his whistleblower lawsuit, Neves claims that he applied for hundreds of jobs to replace the one he had lost, but because the state refused to give him a positive reference he was unable to find employment until recently. Though he sought $935,000 in his claim, the jurors awarded him $90,000 for lost wages and $160,000 for pain, suffering and emotional distress.