31Aug/160

United Airlines manager caught lying to OSHA in asbestos case

Marty Watters, Investigative Reporter

Sylvia Empen

Sylvia Empen

Occupational Safety and Health Administration officials Sukhvir Kaur and Angeline Loftus recently confirmed that United Airlines facilities maintenance manager Sylvia Empen lied to OSHA officials, and that by doing so Empen broke the law and could face criminal charges.

And as with many federal cases, it could be the cover-up that ultimately lands people in jail.

And for her part in the illegal removal and dumping of asbestos from buildings at United's former World Headquarters (WHQ), jail might be just where Empen is headed.

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Here are the facts:

Empen contracted A&E Services Inc. to remove asbestos from United's former WHQ.

A&E Services hired Mexican day labor on an ongoing basis to illegally remove and dump the asbestos.

In doing so A&E exposed United employees and the public to vast amounts of airborne asbestos fibers.

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United employees then filed an official complaint with OSHA.

Ms. Empen told OSHA officials who were investigating that complaint for the record that A&E Services was removing fiberglass insulation and not asbestos.

Now thanks to whistleblowers at United, OSHA officials have learned that A&E Services was in fact removing large amounts of asbestos - not fiberglass insulation - from United's former WHQ, and that Empen lied to them during the investigation.

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Thanks to Empen's lies, OSHA prematurely closed its investigation. As a result, United employees and members of the public are still being exposed to airborne asbestos fibers throughout the entire campus of United's former WHQ.

It has also been established in recent meetings with OSHA officials that during their interviews with United employees, OSHA investigators did not inform the employees of their whistleblower protection rights.

That will be very important moving forward due to the fact that United employees have since endured physical threats and retaliations at work for telling OSHA investigators and United management what they knew about the illegal asbestos removal.

Steps are now being taken to ensure that United employees begin receiving the workplace protections that they are due under the federal whistleblower protection laws.

Furthermore, U.S. Attorney Zachary Fardon has been informed of this situation and has even received a referral from the New Jersey U.S. Attorney's Office to investigate these developments due to concerns that United has violated the Non-Prosecution Agreement it entered into in a public corruption case with that office.

The question now is: How high up the United Airlines management chain does this cover-up go?

Oscar Munoz, does the buck stop with you?

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