TAMPA — A former employee is suing Mosaic, contending that the fertilizer company retaliated against him for filing a workers compensation claim after he was burned by acid.
David Perkins, who lives in Pasco County, had worked as a shift operator for 12 years, 10 when the plant was owned by C.F. Industries and two after Mosaic bought it in 2014, according to the suit in Hillsborough Circuit Court.
In September 2016, an acid line broke, burning Perkins’ legs and leading to a six-day hospital stay and 30 days with his legs wrapped in bandages. The suit said he also suffered psychological injuries that included post-traumatic stress disorder.
Perkins filed a workers compensation claim, and the suit said Mosaic accepted responsibility and recognized that his burns and psychiatric problems were compensable conditions. He was released to work in early 2017 with a psychiatrist’s restriction that he not work with acid lines to avoid further emotional distress. In September 2017, his workers compensation doctor cleared him to return to light-duty work, and later those light-duty restrictions were lifted.
But rather than return him to work, the suit said, Mosaic told Perkins he was being terminated effective Dec. 31, 2017 because the company’s Plant City plant was being idled and there was no position for him there.
That November, the company announced it would close the plant, which is on State Road 39 just south of the Hillsborough-Pasco county line, for at least a year to cut costs and improve profitability. Mosaic said the Plant City plant had the highest operating costs of any of its Florida facilities and required a lot of spending to keep it running every year.
The plant had a work force of 430, and the company said it planned to offer 200 voluntary retirement incentive packages, had created about 100 other openings at other facilities and would offer severance packages to those not placed elsewhere.
Perkins said his lawsuit that he applied for one of the jobs that remained at the idled plant as well as at three other Mosaic locations. He said he was rejected and contended that was because he had filed the workers compensation claim. On Wednesday, the company declined comment on that claim.
"Mosaic doesn’t comment on pending litigation involving individual personnel issues," Mosaic spokeswoman Jackie Barron said in an email to the Tampa Bay Times.
Meanwhile, Mosaic’s facility in Plant City continues to be idled.
"We continue to evaluate the market to determine the best time to return that capacity to our production," Barron said.
Contact >Richard Danielson> at [email protected] or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times