Nortek Air Solutions is the subject of two separate OSHA complaints referencing the HVAC company's facility in Tualatin, Oregon. As reported by the Portland Tribune, both complaints mention concerns over the facility's implementation of the CDC's COVID-19 prevention precautions, including lack of social distancing for the facility's 300-plus workforce.
Brett Resko said he worked for the company for roughly five years before the COVID-19 outbreak. When warnings about the spread of the virus started to surface, he became concerned about the more than 300 people still working at the warehouse.
Resko said he started asking about whether changes could be made, "the day that the CDC finally came out on the news and said 'we're gonna have a when not an if."
The State of Oregon has received around 2,747 complaints related to the coronavirus in the last six weeks, a reported 1,600 percent jump in total reports from March 2 to April 5. A majority of complaints stem from how businesses are handling the governor's "stay home" order.
In Nortek's case, manager Brett Resko claims that he was suspended and then fired after raising safety concerns over working conditions in relation to COVID-19 potential infections.
"I'm am a maintenance manager, so I talked to my boss and a production manager about, you know, we need to get in front of this … it's serious. It's not a joke anymore," Resko told the Portland Tribune. Management reportedly instructed him not to "blow it out of proportion, or cause fear."
From the Tribune:
As work continued, Resko said he got word of a coworker's spouse who tested positive for COVID-19. Shortly afterward, some of the maintenance employees were asked to come in on a Saturday and clean the facility the weekend of April 4, in an effort to decontaminate any potentially affected areas.
When Resko told his manager his employees weren't comfortable cleaning without proper protective gear, he says an argument ensued.
In a statement released by Nortek from director of operations Chad Gooch, the company stood by its commitment to employee safety but declined to comment on the details of Resko's termination.
"There has never been retaliation of any kind for bringing up, or pointing out a safety concern, or unsafe condition," Gooch said in a statement. "Our company has a strong track record of putting safety first. This commitment toward safety has earned our plant certification from OSHA's 5 year Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP) that recognizes Oregon businesses with exemplary health and safety programs."
Nortek encourages its staff to "bring up safety and other concerns in an appropriate and respectful manner," Gooch said. In a memo released to Nortek employees in early April, Gooch asks employees to adhere to state guide lines and avoid having a "bad attitude" over the situation.
"As always, if you run into someone with a bad attitude, dramatizing, spreading rumors, or fear let me know and we will deal with that on a case by case basis."
After an investigation into the two complaints filed in early April, the Nortek facility has since been cleared by OSHA to continue work since been given a "green light" by OSHA to continue its operations. Additionally, face masks are now mandatory for its employees.