A former gravedigger says he was fired after he alerted his bosses about co-workers breaking open caskets and concrete grave boxes while they were drunk and stoned on the job at Monona and Ixonia cemeteries.
In a lawsuit filed Wednesday in Dane County Circuit Court, Reymond Blazys alleges that StoneMor Partners, a Pennsylvania-based cemetery and funeral home company, fired him after he raised concerns about sloppy work by co-workers who were drunk and high on marijuana at Roselawn Memorial Park in Monona and Glenview Memorial Gardens in Ixonia in Jefferson County.
StoneMor owns both cemeteries, where Blazys worked from spring 2015 until he was fired in October 2016 after telling company representatives that his co-workers’ repeated behavior was inappropriate, according to the lawsuit.
John McNamara, StoneMor’s director of investor relations, said the allegations are “false and without merit” and that the company will “challenge them vigorously in court.”
According to the lawsuit, workers, who were not named, sometimes dug shallow graves to cut corners while drunk and high, and at times used a backhoe to pound concrete boxes, used to protect caskets, deeper into the ground. In one November 2015 incident, a concrete box and casket were smashed open, exposing the corpse of a man, after blows from a backhoe.
“I won’t do that drunk anymore,” the backhoe operator said afterward, according to the lawsuit.
The operator, noting that the dead man was a Navy veteran, said, “Well, he’s in the water now,” the suit states.
Also according to the lawsuit:
In an April 2016 backhoe incident with a drunken operator, a grave dug between two existing graves broke open drain tile and a grave box from an adjacent grave, causing it to fill with water and a foul odor to drift from the grave.
“Oh, that smell ... is getting to me,” one of Blazys’ co-workers said in a video of the incident taken by Blazys.
After the two cemeteries were purchased by StoneMor from the Bronze Stone group in August 2016, Blazys told a manager about his concerns. When they weren’t addressed, he twice contacted a company ethics reporting line that he thought was anonymous.
Soon after, Blazys showed three StoneMor representatives who had flown out to meet him a video of an incident and told them that his coworkers’ behavior was unsafe and unacceptable.
Blazys was then fired for “complaining” about other employees, with StoneMor’s Regional Maintenance Manager Darin Keener telling him that he was “not right for this place.”
In the lawsuit, Blazys said the workers’ sloppiness amounted to grave desecration and that Wisconsin has a law stating that grave desecration should be reported.
Since he was fired, Blazys’ attorney, Mike Godbe, of the law firm Hawks Quindel, said his client has struggled to find steady work and has been homeless at times.
Blazys wants his job back, back pay and his legal expenses paid, according to the lawsuit.
“My client tried to do what was right and was punished for it,” Godbe said. “He was good at his job. He took pride in it.”