Sanitation district under fire for treatment of Hispanic workers
February 25, 2011
The South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation District is under state scrutiny once again; this time for its alleged treatment of Hispanic and temporary workers.
A complaint was filed with the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA). It alleges the Oceano based sanitation plant is violating safety orders found in Title 8 of the California Code of Regulations, which requires the district to “establish, implement and maintain an effective injury and illness prevention program.”
A confidential letter from OSHA, obtained by CalCoastNews, was received by the plant on Monday, Feb. 21. It details the complaint which alleges Hispanic and temporary workers employed at the sanitation plant are not being trained on personal protective equipment and the hazards of the job, unlike their counterparts.
In the letter, OSHA says it has not yet made a determination as to whether the complaint has any grounds. It is, however, requiring the district, which serves Oceano, Grover Beach and Arroyo Grande, to conduct an internal investigation of the alleged hazards and report back to the state organization within 14 days of receiving the notice.
If the sewer plant operator does not meet OSHA’s response requirements, the office says it intends to make an unannounced inspection which could result in the levying of citations and monetary penalties if the allegations are found to be true.
The letter concludes by reminding the district that California law protects employees that make formal complaints about health and safety hazards in the workplace, including protection from being fired or discriminated against.
The complaint is just the latest in a series of challenges for the South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation District within the last few months, including an unlawful termination suit, a massive raw sewage spill, water board violations and compliance issues.
A former shift supervisor and 12 year veteran of the plant, Scott Mascolo, who was terminated last week, was an outspoken critic of safety and compliance issues under the district’s watch.
Mascolo says he had complained to plant administrator, John Wallace, that on many occasions Hispanic and temporary workers were put at risk of respiratory hazards, chemical exposure and even electrocution because they were not given proper training, education and bi-lingual literature particularly on safety and personal protective equipment.
He said the plant favored Hispanic employees for their exceptional work ethic but they were often belittled, intimidated, overworked and denied breaks.