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St. Louis Aquarium Reaches Settlement With Former Employees Claiming Wrongful Termination

The St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station
David Kovaluk
St. Louis Public Radio
Three former employees of the St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station are settling their claims that the company wrongfully fired them last year.

The St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station has reached a settlement with three former employees who claim they were wrongfully terminated last year.

Under the terms of the settlement, the aquarium takes no responsibility for wrongdoing, and the termination has been removed from the former employees’ records.

Former employee Caroline Patterson couldn’t disclose the settlement amount, but she said overall she’s happy with the outcome.

“It’s a good part of closure because another thing they have to do is post a labor rights bulletin right next to the time clock so other employees will know what their rights are and that they wouldn’t feel intimidated or worried about retaliation.”

Patterson said the company expressed interest in a settlement within about two weeks of receiving her claim. The aquarium did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

St. Louis Public Radio previously spoke with a dozen current and former employees, including Patterson, who said management had created a hostile and unsafe working environment.

In January, Patterson said she had experienced retaliation last fall after organizing more than 20 of her colleagues to address their concerns about the aquarium.

They submitted a 13-page list of concerns in October, which included calls for management to more strictly enforce social distancing, the use of masks and other COVID-19 safety rules.

Shortly after that, Patterson suggested in a private group chat that employees stage a walkout in protest of the working conditions. She was called into an office where an HR manager showed her screenshots of the messages and told her she had a “Mean Girls’ mentality.”

Patterson has said she believes the aquarium fired her and three other employees that day for being vocal critics. She said they were all told they created a negative work environment.

She worried that being fired could make it hard to find another job in animal care. But the National Labor Relations Board helped her and two others reach a settlement that removes it from their record. The other former employees declined to comment for this story.

Follow Corinne on Twitter: @corinnesusan

Corinne is the economic development reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.

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