BREAKING: Bell Sued By Longtime Employee
West Anchorage State Senate Candidate Bob Bell (R), who is running against incumbent Hollis French (D), is being sued by a former employee of his engineering firm F.R. Bell & Associates, Inc. Edward Biggs of Wasilla is seeking restitution for discrimination and retaliation in violation of the Alaska Workers’ Compansation Act; interference with his rights under the Family Medical Leave Act; disability discrimination; breach of contract, destruction of evidence, and wrongful retaliatory discharge.
Bell was recently fined by the Alaska Public Offices Commission (APOC) for campaign disclosure violations relating to F.R. Bell and Associates. The campaign revelations also came on the heels of the discovery that Bell participated in an incident involving the intimidation of an Alaska Department of Fish & Game employee while he and others attempted to illegally retain trophy horns from a “subsistence” musk ox hunt in Northwest Alaska. Bell was on the Board of Game at the time.
The man who filed charges Thursday, Edward Biggs, began his employment with Bell in 1991, and worked his way up to supervising work crews on the North Slope and elsewhere. He traveled internationally for the company and was called to work about nine months out of the year. Nobody ever complained about his work, he was always one of the first to be called in, and was one of Bell’s most senior employees.
Then, it all started to get hinky.
According to charging documents filed by Mr. Biggs, he injured his knee when he got stuck in a mud bog at Point Thompson in September of 2010. A couple weeks went by and told his boss, Jeff Cotton, that his knee was killing him and he needed to go see a doctor. Cotton told Biggs there was just too much work to do, and denied his request to leave for medical assistance.
Then, to make matters worse, Biggs stepped into a giant hole, aggravating the injury, and finally got a doctor’s appointment scheduled for January 5, 2011. Biggs, in preparation for the doctor’s visit, called the company and asked for his workers’ comp number. Corporate Secretary Kathleen Stone told him to use his own private insurance to pay for the visit. So Biggs ended up incurring a deductible of $2500 plus charges for 20% of the medical bills he would incur.
At the end of the month, Biggs tried again to get his worker’s comp number, and was told that Cotton had not reported any injury. After explaining he’d need time off for surgery, he filled out the proper paperwork and turned it in to Stone on February 1, 2011. She post-dated the claim for the following day, February 2.
So, even though Stone had notice from Biggs in early January of the problem, nothing was filed by Bell & Assoc. until a month later.
Bob Bell himself is named in the complaint, and is alleged to have personally investigated Biggs’ injury on the job, contacting his North Slope project managers, and managers at BP and Exxon to verify his injury.
As if this isn’t all bad enough, management allegedly pressured Biggs to change the location of his workplace injury to the company’s Wasilla location to protect the safety records of the Pt. Thompson project, and at least one North Slope producer.
It was after this, Biggs claims, that he began to get the runaround. His supervisor started saying work was slow, and something would come up, which never did. Then when rumors of legal action surfaced, Biggs was told that nothing would be done to return him to work “until the Workers’ Compensation case was settled.”
Biggs ended up with a clean bill of health from his doctor, but filed for unemployment in May after being dismissed. Bell & Co. told the Department of Labor Biggs had quit voluntarily, delaying his benefits. After being mysteriously unable to find comparable work in Alaska, after 15 months, Biggs was forced to leave Alaska and find work in Canada. An employee of Bell’s firm admitted that Biggs had been “blackballed” by the Defendant from working elsewhere in the state because of his workplace injury claim.
Biggs attempted to obtain notes relating to the case from Bell’s firm during the process, and is also alleging that notes which are directly relevant to the case have been destroyed, and that the company “caused or allowed the evidence to be destroyed over the wishes of the Plaintiff.”
The conduct of Bell’s firm was described in charging documents as “outrageous, and was intentionally undertaken in reckless disregard of [Mr. Biggs’] health and property. Biggs is now holding Bell to account for wrongful discharge, breach of contract, lost earnings, wages and benefits, other economic losses, and emotional distress, and for actual, compensatory and punitive damages, and attorney’s fees in an amount to be determined at trial.
You’ve got to wonder, if this is how Bob Bell treats one of his most loyal and best-performing employees, how is he planning to treat his constituents in Juneau whom he’s never even met?
You can read the charging document HERE.