Yellowstone Worker Sees Red: Claiming Retaliation Over Asbestos Report

A Yellowstone National Park maintenance worker named Jon Kline reported that he and several other employees at the park were exposed to asbestos at Old Faithful Inn, a hundred year old lodge/hotel at the park. After submitting the report, Kline claims he was subjected to workplace retaliation from the park concession company, Xanterra Parks & Resorts, a subsidiary of Anschutz Corp. The company holds contracts to operate facilities focused on tourist attraction at a number of U.S. national parks including: Oregon’s Crater Lake, California’s Death Valley, Arizona’s Grand Canyon, and Utah’s Zion National Park.

Kline alleges that Xanterra Parks & Resort began to give him poor work reviews and eventually declined his contract renewal after the incident with asbestos exposure last March that he properly reported to authorities. The employee retaliation claim that Kline filed is still pending. In describing the circumstances where he and others were exposed to asbestos he states that they were told “not to worry about it” and that it was “safe.” The exposure occurred while he was part of a crew working on steam lines wrapped in asbestos at the Old Faithful Inn, originally opened in 1904. His opinion of the situation was that it was not worry free or particularly safe.

Asbestos got loose from an old pipe insulation when broken pipes that occurred during the winter began to emit steam in March. The pipes were restored in order to provide heat to the west wing before the plumbing could be turned on. The asbestos was present in at least eight rooms in the west wing of the seven-story structure known as Old Faithful. Workers were not alerted to the presence of asbestos before they tore into the walls to get to the ruptures. The asbestos was cleaned up by a certified company prior to opening the popular Yellowstone hotel to guests the following May. The Old Faithful Inn is ranked as one of the world’s largest log structures and is very well known. In fact, it’s one of the most stunning and immediately recognizable hotels in the entire U.S. national park system.

As a result of four workplace safety citations due to exposure, Xanterra paid $15,300 in fines last September. Workers involved were not wearing appropriate safety gear. They were provided with inadequate respirators thus exposing them to the cancer-causing substance (according to representatives from the Wyoming Occupational Safety and Health Administrator). Xanterra representatives declined to comment on the case or respond to allegations, but did state that the safety of their employees and guests are a top priority.

If you have questions regarding workplace retaliation and how to recognize labor law violations in southern California, please get in touch with the experienced employment law attorneys at Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik today.