United Airlines sued by two former employees - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

United Airlines sued by two former employees

Susan Quimby Susan Quimby
Donna Kuehu Donna Kuehu

By Tim Sakahara - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A pair of workers are suing United Airlines saying the company's reservations call center made them sick and that managers did nothing to help.  They also say more employees are at risk.  Hundreds of people work in the office in question.  It's located at the Honolulu International Airport in the basement of a building next to the runway.  United Airlines held a blessing for the new $4.5 million call center back in October 2000, but since then the facility has had turbulent times.

"I became very ill and in fact I fainted a couple times working in the facility," said Susan Quimby, who worked at the facility from 2000 to 2010.

"We had been exposed to environmental toxins that stem from sewer overflows, sewer gases, rotten egg gases and chemical gases," said Donna Kuehu, who worked at the facility from 2000 to 2006.

Susan Quimby says she feared she was going to be fired because she was on extended illness.  Donna Kuehu was terminated from the company.  They are suing saying they have long term respiratory and cardiovascular problems.  They claim four out of the five days a week they breathed the toxins down in the basement.

"I'm very emotional about this because it just doesn't concern me, it concerns our families, our husbands, sons, daughters, grandmas, grandpas," said Quimby. "We were told by management that these are just nuisance type smells. It's difficult for me to speak out but somebody has to do it."

"This shouldn't be happening here or anywhere," said Kuehu.

Employees complained to the Hawaii Occupational Safety and Health Division six times between 2005 through 2008.  Each time inspectors found gas levels were either not detectable or below detection levels of the testing instruments.  However a HIOSH administrator also admits danger levels have not been updated since 1971 and that state and federal governments are behind on the times when it comes to permissible exposure limits to employees.

"The employer has a responsibility to provide a safe workplace for all employees and united has not been doing that and United management has been aware of the problem and never corrected it," said Tony Bothwell, attorney representing the workers.

They are seeking unspecified monetary damages and they want United to fix the problems and get rid of the smells and gases.

A United Airlines spokesperson says the company has not seen the actual complaint and cannot comment at this time.

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