Employees file OSHA complaint against company for not allowing them to take shelter during a tornado

PADUCAH, KY– The tornado that hit Paducah on March 14 happened in the morning while many people were at work.

Employees at Lynx Services, a Solera Company, claim they were not allowed to take cover.

“I was looking out the window and the weather was really really bad,” said Elisia Cruz, an employee of almost two years at Lynx.

We spoke to seven employees with over 50 years of experience at Lynx between them on Saturday. We spoke to more through phone and email.

The seven employees described the call center as a warehouse style with cubicles lined up in a row where they take calls for insurance company claims.  They say windows are on one side of the building, but they are not at eye level. Employees say it’s company policy to not have their cellphones while taking calls and and that they must store them in lockers.

An employee we are not naming due to fear of retaliation by the company says they took a break about 10:00 a.m. and took their phone with them.

“I’m getting notifications on my phone, you know tornado, tornado, tornado, take cover,” said the employee.

They also heard the emergency sirens in Paducah.

This email was sent to OSHA as supporting documents on claims Lynx’s refused to allow employees to shelter in place.

The unnamed employee claims they went inside and told a supervisor about the warnings. 22 people in an OSHA complaint say the supervisor told them to continue to work.

“Just to take your calls, you’ll be alright, just continue working,” the employee we spoke to said he was told.

Cruz says there was no other way for employees to know about the tornado by their employer. They claim they do not have a weather scanner near their desks.

“They have TVs set up. They weren’t on,” Cruz said. “They hadn’t been set up for the past two weeks before this tornado.”

Employees showed me an email from December were a supervisor told employees to remain in their seats as they monitored weather conditions.

One week after the tornado, the company sent an email to employees. Attached to the email was the emergency procedures.

“As long as I’ve been there for a year and half they haven’t done one type of training for storms or anything for what we need to do,”Cruz said.

All seven employees we spoke to on Saturday made the same claim.

In a statement to WPSD, the parent company Solera told us “Although we have protocols in place to address these situations, we took immediate action when questions about safety procedures in the wake of the tornado activity were brought to our attention.”

Portions of the OSHA complaint signed by 22 Lynx employees.

On Monday, several people from their leadership team came and spoke to employees about what happened that day.

Federal labor laws require all employers to have a emergency action plan that organizes employer and employees actions during workplace emergencies. They even offer a full guide online to help employers put this plan in action.

The 22 employees claim that plan didn’t go into action. Cruz said she had to speak up.

“They can do all kind of stuff to make us lose our jobs.” she said. “I’m a smart girl, I’ll find another job if they do, so I’m stepping up and saying something, because it’s not right.”

Below is Solera’s full statement to WPSD

“Solera cares first and foremost for the safety and well-being of our people and of our communities. Although we have protocols in place to address these situations, we took immediate action when questions about safety procedures in the wake of the Tornado activity were brought to our attention. Several members of our leadership team traveled from global headquarters and hosted town hall meetings to hear from employees and better communicate existing safety procedures and protocol to all parties moving forward. We are in the process of ensuring that everyone is retrained and considering whether other safety measures are needed. Solera has also provided donations through its LIFT program to the American Red Cross Kentucky Region, and as a sponsor we will participate in its upcoming Sound the Alarm program.”

– Ron Massey, Vice President of Human Resources and Operations, Solera

If you have any stories of a company not allowing you to shelter in place during the tornado, message Shamarria Morrison on Facebook.