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Managers threatened to fire factory workers if they left job amid tornado warning, say employees

At least 15 workers at a candle factory in Kentucky asked to be allowed to go home as tornado sirens rang out.

Managers threatened to fire factory workers if they left job amid tornado warning, say employees
DAWSON SPRINGS, KENTUCKY - DECEMBER 13: In this aerial view, a commercial building is heavily damaged on December 13, 2021 in Dawson Springs, Kentucky. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images) Insert: NBC News

A day after a tornado destroyed a candle factory in Kentucky, many employees revealed that the company refused to let them go home despite the warning sirens being sounded in the local area. At least 15 workers urged their managers at Mayfield Consumer Products factory to let them take shelter at their own homes as the weather conditions got extreme. At least five workers have said that supervisors warned them they would be fired if they left their shifts early. “If you leave, you’re more than likely to be fired,” McKayla Emery, an employee, said she overheard managers tell four workers standing near her who wanted to leave. “I heard that with my own ears,” recalled 21-year-old Emery from her hospital bed where she's recovering from the injuries sustained from the tornado hitting the company's building, reported NBC News.



A day after the tornado struck Kentucky, at least 100 people are believed to be dead. Governor Andy Beshear described it as the "most severe tornado event in Kentucky's history." Mayfield company is now being criticized for threatening to fire their employees with the tornado eventually killing at least eight of their workers. The factory which makes scented candles was working 24/7 to churn out products ahead of the Christmas season, reported CNN. The factory is one of the largest employers in Mayfield and over 100 people were working the shift at the time the tornado struck. Eight people haven't been accounted for yet.


McKayla Emery was one among many employees who confirmed the workers were not allowed to go home to shelter from the tornado and were instead told they would be fired if they left their shift early. Emery revealed that workers had asked to leave their shift and head home after hearing the tornado sirens outside the factory around 5:30 p.m. “People had questioned if they could leave or go home,” said Emery, who herself stayed back to make extra money as she believed overtime pay was available. Supervisors told them they could lose their jobs if they left their shift even as tornado sirens wailed. Emery recalled overhearing managers telling four workers they'd be fired if they left the shift.



Haley Conder, another employee at the candle factory, said at least 15 people had asked to leave for home after the first emergency alarm sounded outside the facility. Conder, 29, said there was a 3-4 hour window between the first and the second emergency alarms during which workers should have been allowed to go home, she said. Conder said the supervisors had initially kept everyone in the hallways and bathrooms after the first emergency alarm. When they assumed the tornado was not an imminent danger, instead of sending the workers home, they sent them back to work, recalled employees. Elijah Johnson was among the workers that asked to leave for home. He was told he would be fired. "Even with the weather like this, you’re still going to fire me?” he asked. “Yes,” a manager responded.

MAYFIELD, KENTUCKY - DECEMBER 13: In this aerial view, crews clear the rubble at the Mayfield Consumer Products candle factory after it was destroyed by a tornado three days prior, on December 13, 2021 in Mayfield, Kentucky. Multiple tornadoes struck several Midwest states in the late evening on December 10, causing widespread destruction and multiple fatalities. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)


Johnson said the managers even took a roll call to check who had left work. The company officials have denied the allegations. However, some workers left for their homes not wanting to take a chance. As the tornado got closer, they all took shelter within the building. The lights began to flicker and then the building started shaking. Emery was one of the lucky ones to survive but her condition is still grim. She was hit in the head by a piece of concrete. She was stuck for six hours. She suffered kidney damage and her urine is black. She can't move her legs after having been stuck for so long. 


Kentucky’s governor said the tornado was so strong that sheltering in the building was not an option for workers. “It appears most were sheltering in the place they were told to shelter,” said governor Andy Beshear. “I hope that area was as safe as it could be, but this thing got hit directly by the strongest tornado we could have possibly imagined.”



This is a developing story, and we’ll update as we learn more. Information about the Kentucky tornado is swiftly changing, and Upworthy is committed to providing the most recent and verified updates in our articles and reportage. However, considering the frequency in developments, some of the information/data in this article may have changed since the time of publication."

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