The City of Honolulu has been ordered by a jury to pay Howard Tom Sun, a painter in the Department of Enterprise Services, $1.5 million for retaliating against him for complaining about health and safety conditions.
In 1997, Tom Sun complained about public health violations while working at the Blaisdell Arena. He said employees and the public were exposed to dust from lead-based paint and asbestos.Probably would have been cheaper to just clean the place up.
Tom Sun said hazardous materials were stored and disposed of improperly, and he also reported that he and other employees worked without proper training and safety equipment, which he said was required by federal and state law.
After going public with his concerns, Tom Sun said he was the target of retaliation by his bosses. [Sun's Lawyer, Venetia] Carpenter-Asui said Tom Sun was written up by his supervisor, isolated and not given job duties.
Tom Sun also was denied leave and his co-workers were warned that if they helped him they "would be held accountable," she said.
In June 2000, Tom Sun filed the federal lawsuit and charged that the city violated his First Amendment rights and the state's Whistleblowers Protection Act. He sought an undetermined amount in general damages.