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Suit: Worker fired for reporting problem at UC field station
Illegal hazardous waste was buried at the University of California field station in the Yuba foothills, says a former employee who contends a supervisor called him an "eco-Nazi" for raising the problem.
Daniel Schweitzer, in a whistle-blower lawsuit filed in federal court in Sacramento, said he was fired for reporting the activity at the University of California Sierra Foothill Research and Extension Center on Scott Forbes Road.
He was laid off in 2010, soon after confronting his supervisor about the landfills and warning he would report the problem to the California Environmental Protection Agency, and just a month after receiving his 10-year service award, according to the lawsuit filed on Dec. 11.
He said he prepared a water safety survey detailing the hazardous waste dangers and presented the results to his supervisor.
Pamela Kan-Rice, spokeswoman for University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources, which oversees the field station, said the agency does not comment on matters in litigation.
Attorney Deborah Barron, representing Schweitzer, said on Monday that the Yuba County Environmental Health Department also investigated the site and will issue a report.
Russ Brown, Yuba County spokesman, said the agency's report is expected to be released in January and that UC Extension cooperated in the effort.
Schweitzer said he was singled out and isolated from co-workers after filing a complaint in 2005 with a safety coordinator and the Bureau of State Audits. The supervisor began fabricating reasons to write up Schweitzer and send him home without pay, according to the suit.
He was the only employee in his department who did not receive a raise or promotion, said Schweitzer, who began his employment in 2000 as an agricultural technician.
Several co-workers began leaving negative handwritten notes on Schweitzer's desk and failed to return his tools, the lawsuit contends.
In 2007 he was called into a meeting with the facility director who threatened Schweitzer with losing his job if he continued his environmental investigation, according to the lawsuit.
CONTACT Ryan McCarthy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 749-4780. Find him on Facebook at /ADrmccarthy or on Twitter at @ADrmccarthy.