The U.S. Department of Labor today issued the following statement today in response to our questions about the situation at Job Corps in Little Rock:
"Maintaining the health and safety of students and faculty is of paramount importance to Job Corps. All Job Corps staff are required to receive training in specific wellness and safety areas and to integrate these principles and practices into center living. Safety committees, consisting of staff and students, develop and guide safety initiatives while working to improve safety and health at each center. A walk-through inspection is scheduled weekly to detect any maintenance work or repairs that may be required and pest control treatment is performed monthly."
Original story (August 8):
A former director of Little Rock's Job Corps says the company fired him after he suffered a spider bite on the job, which he claims kept him from working for almost a year.
His is the first of three reported spider bites at the facility, including one that killed a 17-year-old boy and another one that happened just last Saturday.
Dwight Smith says he was hired by Job Corps last year as the Social Development Director, only to be fired for not going back to work after he was bitten by a brown recluse spider.
Smith says he was bitten last April while cleaning his office, but didn't know it was a spider bite until he was told a day later by a doctor at St. Vincent.
Medical reports show he stayed off work for two months, but says he was still fired even though he was under a doctor's care.
"They would call me and say, 'When you coming back to work?' I would say, 'When the doctor releases me,' basically. They would say, 'We need to know a time.' So I would ask my doctor, he would say, 'I can't give you a time.'"
Smith says he was terminated in June of 2011, but had not been released from his doctor's care until 8 months later.
Smith says Job Corps told him the company was helping him out by not letting him go sooner.
"Because I was only employed with them two months, they said I didn't qualify for FMLA, but they still kept me on for that period, so they said, 'We are doing you a favor.'"
Smith says that he has lost 23 years with Job Corps because of this incident, and had to move his family to Oklahoma to live with other family members.
The Job Corps regional office in Dallas is yet to respond to phone calls from KARK regarding this situation.
However, a representative for Bug Masters in Little Rock, who contracts with Job Corps, says the only call they have had from the company in two years about spiders was July 11 of this year."