I was an employee of Camping World at their Apollo, PA location from May 2020- September 2021. In my time with the company, I have witnessed the shadiest business practices. I have witnessed customers getting screwed. I have been sexually and verbally harassed. I had been discriminated against and barred from the General Manager to move into another position because of a disability that I have documented in my employee file. This list continues on. However, my fallout with the company that eventually left me no choice but to quit was due to lack of a reasonable accommodation and putting my safety and well-being into jeopardy. My location was undergoing a massive expansion, but very little precaution was put into place to ensure the safety of CWGS’ employees and customers.
I wrote an email to our CEO after multiple attempts had fallen on deaf ears to get correction from upper management in the location.
The email read as follows: (This is extremely long and can be skipped to read the ending. )
“ Hello, Mr. Lemonis.
My name is Raven T******. I am a Retail Admin Assistant for Camping World at your Apollo, Pennsylvania location, store 208. I have been with the company since May of 2020.
I am emailing you today in regard to a series of events that transpired at our facility this morning that I believe should have been handled better. The negligence of the Senior Project manager for the general contractor and my own Salaried managers for my location jeopardized the health and safety of myself, fellow coworkers, and customers at my store. I feel that instead of taking the issues I am about to explain to you seriously, the above named persons minimized the situation to suit their best interests, and not the health and safety or interests of others in the facility.
As you already know, my store is going through a major expansion that has a deadline to be met in November of this year. Mr. Lemonis, before I came to Camping World, I worked in the construction industry as a commercial and industrial painter. I have been trained and certified in the current OSHA regulations for the construction trades. My father owns a Painting Company that handles multi million dollar contracts with very well known General Contractors, and he holds an OSHA 30 certification. I am well versed in this topic and know that safety and satisfaction of our customers and employees should be our number one priority.
I understand that ignorance may have played a part for my management, but there should be no excuse for the Senior Supers overseeing this active construction site.
Let me explain. I started my shift at 08:00 hours today, September 21st, 2021. My office is next to a glass wall that was to be demo’d to open up the existing building with the new renovation. I have observed trades and their employees walking through an active construction site without hard hats and proper PPE. I have not seen the Senior project manager walking around observing the trades very often. I have not seen anyone wearing reflective or high visability clothing at all times. As a relevant example, when a painter is using an aerial lift, they should be using a safety harness to tie themselves off in case of mechanical failure or an unforeseen issue that could result in injury or death. They also should be wearing a full face respirator when using a pressurize spray pump to avoid significant consequence to their health due to the inhalation of microscopic particles being released into the air. Furthermore, not only should the employee who is spraying the paint be wearing a respirator, but anybody in the vicinity of the paint should also be wearing one. It is the duty of the construction company to supply proper Personal Protection Equipment for employees to avoid negative health consequences. In paint there is something called VOC's. VOC stands for Volitile Organic Compounds. According to the EPA (Enviornmental Protection Agency) VOC’s can lead to or cause the following:
* Irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat
* Organ damage
* Allergic skin reactions
* Nausea and/or vomiting
* Visual disorders
* Impaired memory
* Some compounds are suspected or known to cause cancers
These are just a few of the repercussions that can stem from the negligence of the all of the above parties. Our facility has well over 50 employees, and every single one of them have a right to make a choice when it comes to their health. There was a comment made from a Salaried employee today. His name is Jason Stiffler. He is the Service manager and one of my coworkers who played a part in today’s events. He made the comment that the paints they are using have “Zero- VOC’s” in them. However, I have used the paints that are being applicated in the new facility. The paint is made by PPG paints and their safety data sheets can be pulled right from their website. I shall also make you aware that Low-VOC and no-VOC paints have entered the market, but even these paints are not truly free of VOC compounds; a paint without a VOC drying agent will often still have a (sometimes significant) VOC content based on other ingredients like the pigment that is added at the point of sale. Some of these VOCs are harmless but others can put human health in jeopardy.
Yesterday, I made a comment to a salaried manager, Eric Poff. He is our Operations Manager. He oversees the daily processes in our store and has had continuing communication in the plan of the expansion. I was outside on a break when I asked him if the general contractor had plans of tenting off the store when they bring down the glass wall next to my office to open up the building, because I did not feel safe if they did not. I also asked if he thought the renovation would be done by deadline. I made the comment that I felt they should be working more safely and not cut corners when it came to finishing the building. Mr. Poff had remarked that maybe we should stay out of it, because we do not want to further delay the construction crew, “because after all, this will bring a lot of money to the business and us.” At that point, I realized that the well-being of our employees was not the main concern of this salaried manager, but that the revenue and money going into our pockets are.
Today demolition of the glass wall started to take place when I arrived for my shift. There was no draping or tenting of plastic to stop materials from entering the workplace. Painters were spraying paint without respirators and nobody had been offered one, either. I started to have trouble breathing. I have been diagnosed with asthma and epileptic seizures. Contact with those substances without proper PPE could have resulted in an attack from either of my documented health issues on file with the company. I had stepped outside of the building and called my manager who was not on site. I had told her that I do not feel safe in the building and that the necessary safety precautions are not being taken. She was already on her way in. When she arrived, we had a discussion in the parking lot of the business about why I felt unsafe and how this could negatively effect anybody in the building, customer or employee. As an example, say a customer with mesothelioma on oxygen came into our facility as debris was flying through the air. They had an attack that could not be controlled, and it resulted in the hospitalization, or even worse death, of this customer. An OSHA agent would be in the job site in less than 2 hours to shut down the business and perform an investigation. Not only can paint cause an issue, but when they start ripping out the metal, drywall, and insulation, it could also put fiberglass, formaldehyde and acetaldehyde, both known carcinogens, and crystalline silica, which is a carcinogen when inhaled from the drywall joint compound into the air that can be breathed in by anybody.
Immediately following, my manager Dawn had a meeting with Jason Stiffler, mentioned before, and another salaried manager, Charlie Cribari, soon after our conversation. I do not know what was said in that conversation, but Dawn approached me and said that will need to clock out and HR will be contacting me about the next steps to be taken. I felt as though this was a direct attack of retaliation because I spoke up about the safety hazards I witnessed. Since I did not feel comfortable going into the building, she said she would collect my belongings and clock me out for the day.
I was then approached by all three managers without my own witness to take account of the following. The managers included Charlie Cribari, Jason Stiffler, and Dawn Lowers. As Charlie was talking to me, he said he felt like I was being too loud and that others could hear the conversation. As he was saying this to me, Jason Stiffler was laughing. I had said to Jason that I do not appreciate his condescension and that the same reason I do not feel safe in the building at this time is the same reason we do not paint the trailers we have going into our shop. He retorted with “I assure you the safety of my employees is my top priority.” I told Dawn I did not do this to be malicious or vindictive, but that I felt that this needed to be handled seriously. I did say that I would have no problem reaching out to my Market Manager, Brent Lynch, OSHA, or you, Mr. Lemonis. I said I would be happy to talk with HR when they reach out to me. Charlie then said to Dawn to say nothing more to me since whatever she says could be used against her. He then turned to me and said “Get off of my property, ma’am.” He repeated himself once more. I told him that I get like this was a form of retaliation from my upper management because I was forced to clock off and go home to talk to HR rather than trying to find a resolution and another place for me to safely work.
These events are why I am reaching out to you. On more than one occasion, the current management of this facility has been protected from being reprimanded. Issues has been swept underneath of the rug and nothing has changed, and no consequences have happened to these people who feel they are untouchable. I know I may only be one hourly employee, but the safety of myself and those around me is important, especially when I know what the consequences of these compounds could do to others health, regardless of preexisting health conditions.
I am not the only employee who has reached out to you from my facility in the last few months, and at this rate, I do not feel like I will be the last. Again, I did not mean for this to transpire into a larger issue than it needed to be, but at this time I fear for my job. I fear my reputation at the store amongst my fellow employees has been compromised by the managers. I fear that nothing will come of this. From watching passed problems be blown over, I can almost guarantee that I will be left as the person who was a whistleblower and the other managers will have nothing come of this. Their turnover rate speaks for themselves. Their reviews from their employees speaks for itself. Employees in my facility constantly feel as though their concerns are not being heard or addressed, and that is for good reason: not no reason at all. Finally, people do not leave their place of employment because of the work. They leave because of poor management.
I am a diligent employee who loves what I do and I love my customers. I again did not do this to tarnish the reputation of camping world and it’s affiliates, but change does need to occur.
I thank you for your time and consideration, Mr. Lemonis.
I had gotten a response from Mr. Lemonis that was very brief and vague. It read “ I will work on this right now
I answered back once more with “ Also, there is a point I had forgotten to add. I reminded my direct supervisor that I am asthmatic and have seizures. I have documentation through Unum about my disabilities. I do not believe that I could have been more clear that all I was requesting was a reasonable accommodation such as relocation to another area where the air wasn’t as dirty or if I could be given effective PPE. This could have been avoided if the proper safety precautions were taken from the beginning of the project.
At this time that is all that I have to say.
Again, I thank you. ”
I spent two days away from work while “investigation was pending”. As response from my HR representative , Jordan, they “determined that the threat is now gone since the area has plastic up”. I asked for a reasonable accommodation again to work from home or in one of the outdoor trailers while the construction was still going on, but she instead told me that I needed to return to the store, because this would no longer be an issue.
When I returned to the store, I was greeted with attitudes, comments, and dirty looks from other employees and management. I ignored the slurs of speech and continued to my cubicle. I will say that there was plastic up guarding my desk from what was once a glass wall and the open construction site, but it had holes all through it that still allowed contamination to come through. My desk was completely covered in construction debris and I had been 5 minutes into my shift when I needed to use my inhaler. Despite this, I continued to do some of my work, but I was continuing to get attitudes and retaliation from my fellow coworkers and management for my email. At that moment I did decide to make the desultory decision to pack my belongings, clock out, and give my Manager Dawn my store keys and name badge. She asked me “What’s wrong?” And I simply said “I won’t do this anymore. “ I left with a smile on my face and a boulder lifted off of my shoulders from the hell that store put me through.
Fast forward to November 2022 when I got a letter explaining that my personal information- including my full name and social security number- had been compromised in a data breach from February 2022. It took them 9 months to “complete their investigation” and notify me of the potential for identity theft. As a “precaution” they supplied one year of credit monitoring. This company and the management is nothing but a joke. I wouldn’t walk, I would RUN far away.
Name: Raven T.