Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

February 20, 2013

Discipline over rifle leads to suit

ASHLAND — A Marathon Petroleum Co. employee has filed a federal lawsuit against the company, its security contractor and others, alleging his rights were violated when he was disciplined for having a hunting rifle in the back seat of his vehicle.

Jason Seth Mullins maintains in his complaint he suffered medical problems because of the stress the disciplinary action placed upon him.

Mullins’ wife, Tabitha, is also a plaintiff in the suit, which was originally filed in Boyd Circuit Court and recently removed to U.S. District Court. In addition to Marathon, the defendants include Securitas Security Services USA Inc. and various employees of both companies.

The suit seeks unspecified damages for past and future physical and mental pain and suffering, embarrassment and humiliation, past and future medical expenses and lost wages and benefits. Punitive damages and attorney fees are also sought.

Tabitha Mullins is seeking damages for loss of society, affection, assistance, and/or household services and depression, “all to the detriment of her marital relationship.”

In the suit, filed by attorney Christopher Hunt of Pikeville, Jason Mullins, a barge cleaner at Marathon’s Catlettsburg refinery, claims the Marathon company policy under which he was disciplined runs counter to a Kentucky law that forbids employers from prohibiting anyone who is legally entitled to possess a firearm from keeping a weapon or ammunition in their vehicle on company property.

The law also states any employer that fires, disciplines, demotes or otherwise punishes an employee for “lawfully exercising” that right “shall be liable in civil damages,” the suit states.

Also, the gun was not concealed, as defined by Kentucky law, meaning Mullins was not required to have a concealed-carry permit to have it in his vehicle, the suit states.

According to the suit, an employee of Securitas walked past Jason Mullins’ vehicle in a Marathon-controlled parking lot of May 11, 2012, and noticed a hunting rifle in the back seat. That same day, Mullins claims he was called into a meeting with members of Marathon’s facility safety department. At that meeting, he says he was read the company’s weapons policy and then told to leave the premises until he was called.

During that meeting, Mullins claims he made the defendants aware of his rights, specifically citing the state law that allows workers to keep guns in their vehicles on company property.

Six days later, according to the suit. Mullins was summoned to another meeting and told he was being suspended for a day without pay and placed on probation for two years. During that probationary period, he was told he could be fired for any violation of company rule or policy, no matter how minor.

The disciplinary action also included disallowing Mullins to apply and test for higher-paying jobs within the company, the suit states.

Mullins continued to work for nine more days until added stress caused his blood pressure to “spike dangerously,” Hunt wrote. He was hospitalized at St. Mary’s Medical Center for five days and was found to have suffered an aneurysm as the result of his increased blood pressure. He subsequently underwent two “invasive procedures” to address the aneurysm and the resulting damage from it, the suit states.

Mullins also alleges he has been cleared to return to work, but Marathon has refused to allow him to do so, forcing him to use all his pain sick leave. He also maintains the defendants’ actions were an attempt to cause him to “voluntarily resign” his employment.

Kentucky is an at-will employment state, which generally allows companies to fire workers for any reason or no reason and grants employers wide latitude in disciplining employees. However, Hunt argues the defendants’ actions violated his clients rights under the Kentucky and U.S. constitutions, which trumps the at-will doctrine.

In its response to the complaint, Marathon acknowledges Mullins received “some form of discipline” during the course of his employment with the company, but it specifically denies wrongdoing.

The company also denied not allowing Mullins from returning to work. According to the response, Mullins first attempted to return on June 5, but the company medical staff wouldn’t clear him because his blood pressure was still dangerously high. He next attempted to come back on June 14, at which point the medical staff cleared him to come back with restrictions.

Marathon claims it was able to provide work for Mullins within those restrictions on June 15 and 18, and that otherwise, he was on leave of absence under the company’s sick leave policy, receiving 100 percent pay from June 4 until July 17 and 60 percent pay from July 18 until Oct. 19.

Also, Marathon maintains Mullins’ treating physician prevented him from working from July 3 through Oct. 22, at which point he returned to work.

KENNETH HART can be reached at khart@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2654.

1
Text Only
Local News
  • AK Steel posts smaller 2Q loss

    AK Steel Holding Corp. (AKS) on Tuesday reported a smaller loss in its second quarter, and topped analysts' expectations.

    July 29, 2014

  • ambulance.jpg UPDATE: Major impact downtown in accident

    A morning accident left an ambulance resting on its side Tuesday morning in front of the Paramount Arts Center on Winchester Avenue.

    July 29, 2014 2 Photos

  • Jesse Stuart Foundation celebrates 35 years

    The annual Jesse Stuart Foundation Open House from noon to 6 p.m. on Aug. 8 will be a huge celebration.
     

    July 28, 2014

  • 0729hagerman.jpg Hagerman talks law with Rotary

    At Monday’s lunchtime meeting of the Ashland Rotary Club, Boyd County Circuit Court Judge C. David Hagerman summed up current local legal trends — and how cases, courts and criminals have changed during his 20-plus year tenure.
     

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • POLICE BEAT: Houseguest steals valuables, nabbed at pawn shop

    Fish and houseguests both stink after three days — and much less time when a visitor pockets valuables without permission.
     

    July 28, 2014

  • 0728bank5.jpg Iconic Gate City bank torn down after partial collapse

    This weekend, Catlettsburg’s downtown silhouette lost one of its longest-lived landmarks.
    Demolition workers began to tear down one of the Gate City’s oldest downtown buildings following the former Catlettsburg National Bank’s partial collapse.

    July 28, 2014 2 Photos

  • Study shows room for parking improvement

    It has been suggested that the parking layout along Winchester Avenue should change, bringing the city’s main thoroughfare down to two lanes.

    July 28, 2014

  • Anti-smoking tour kicks off in Ashland

    A scan in 2009 that was supposed to show doctors what was causing Deborah Cline’s eye problems by chance revealed the cancer in her lung.
    Two years later, Roger Cline watched his wife die of lung cancer. Deborah Cline was 59 and had never smoked.

    July 28, 2014

  • 0728bank5.jpg Gate City landmark demolished

    The historic Catlettsburg National Bank Building was being taken down after the front dormer window collapsed on Sunday.

    July 28, 2014 4 Photos

  • Local counties see drop in unemployment

    Boyd County was one of 117 counties that saw a decrease in its unemployment rate between June 2013 and June 2014.
     

    July 27, 2014

Featured Ads
Seasonal Content
AP Video
Rodents Rampant in Gardens Around Louvre House to Vote on Slimmed-down Bill for Border Looming Demand Could Undercut Flight Safety Raw: 2 Shells Hit Fuel Tank at Gaza Power Plant Raw: Massive Explosions From Airstrikes in Gaza Giant Ketchup Bottle Water Tower Up for Sale Easier Nuclear Construction Promises Fall Short Kerry: Humanitarian Cease-fire Efforts Continue Raw: Corruption Trial Begins for Former Va Gov. The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming UN Security Council Calls for Gaza Cease-fire Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating 13 Struck by Lightning on Calif. Beach Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted Israel, Hamas Trade Fire Despite Truce in Gaza Italy's Nibali Set to Win First Tour De France Raw: Shipwrecked Concordia Completes Last Voyage Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge From Nest Raw: Massive Dust Storm Covers Phoenix 12-hour Cease-fire in Gaza Fighting Begins
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
AP basketball
SEC Zone