A lawsuit filed by a Pennsylvanian beautician was recently settled out of court for $100,000. Mary Ann Gruzs sued the York County Nursing and Rehabilitation Center and the county for total damages of $350,000 for allegedly firing her for speaking out about asbestos at the facility. According to Gruzs, she noticed in May 2005 that floor tiles in the salon of the nursing home needed replacement. A conversation with a maintenance worker at the home led her to believe that the crumbling old tiles contained asbestos. She felt that the proper precautions to prevent asbestos exposure to others were not taken during the repair and replacement of the floor. Even her requests for air quality testing were pushed aside, the facility informing Gruzs that such tests were not needed. Gruzs persisted. She went so far as to have the replaced tiles tested by an independent testing center for asbestos.
The results showed that the tiles did contain dangerous levels of asbestos. Exposure to asbestos dust, fibers, or particles has been linked to many deadly lung diseases in humans. These illnesses include the rare but rapidly lethal cancer mesothelioma . Development of diseases from asbestos inhalation often does not happen until decades after exposure. Whether anyone was harmed by the broken asbestos tiles at the nursing home remains to be seen, possibly not until many years in the future. Gruzs soon found herself fired from the York County Nursing and Rehabilitation Center’s salon. Believing that her persistence in uncovering the hazard posed by the asbestos tiles was what led to her firing, Gruzs sued. The county maintains that it was because she did not call in on three consecutive absences she accrued beginning on June 6, 2006. The county claims that it settled out of court to prevent paying the costs of defense and the hassles of going to trial. No admission to being at fault was made on the county’s behalf.