Fired Worker Says Safety Complaint Led to Dismissal

Times Staff Writer

A former employee of a plane maintenance firm at Van Nuys Airport claims in a lawsuit that he was fired after he complained to authorities about unsafe fueling conditions.

William Fulkerson, 41, alleged in a Van Nuys Superior Court complaint filed on Friday that Piper Air Center, where he was employed from May to July last year, was the site of numerous violations of California health and safety codes.

Fulkerson's job was putting fuel into private aircraft. He charged that during the time of his employment there were leaks in fuel lines and that fuel often spilled onto aircraft engines.

He said that after he filed a complaint with the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration on May 21, Piper Air Center fired him.

Cited for Five Violations

State officials cited Piper Air Center for five safety violations on Aug. 6. According to E. R. Grimes, a Cal-OSHA inspector, the violations were corrected the same day. Grimes said the facility now meets safety and health standards.

Richard Voorhis, vice president of operations at the firm, said Fulkerson had never made a formal complaint to the company about the fueling practices. Voorhis denied that Fulkerson was fired for contacting the state. He said the reason for the dismissal was insubordination.

He said Fulkerson "was reprimanded weekly for the quality of his work. Finally we had enough, and we got rid of him."

Fulkerson, who lives in West Los Angeles, asked for $5 million in damages.

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