Lawsuit accuses Hawaii dolphin tour company of violating coronavirus restrictions


A former employee sued a dolphin tour company in Hawaii, accusing him and his owner of violating coronavirus restrictions, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported on Monday.

In a lawsuit, former Ocean Journeys human resources coordinator Yumi Ishizuka said the company violated Hawaii’s whistleblower protection law and public policy.

Company owner Richard Holland fired Ishizuka after she objected to him denouncing Hawaii’s coronavirus restrictions, according to the Star-Advertiser.

Ishizuka alleges in his lawsuit that Holland tried to bypass capacity limits on the company’s tour boats, which the state put in place to protect people from COVID-19, and discouraged staff members to wear masks.

The Star-Advertiser obtained emails that Ishizuka and Holland exchanged about the situation. In one, Holland complained to staff about state restrictions on the number of people allowed on company boats, according to the Star-Advertiser.

“We must take control of [the] matter and let’s do whatever we need to do to use common sense, ”Holland wrote in the email. “I honestly think we shouldn’t cut each other at 25 [passengers], and we should rig the numbers and maybe even go up to 40 minimum.

In another, he allegedly asked staff to come for an in-person meeting without a mask.

According to Ishizuka’s attorney, Andrew Stewart, emails between the two escalated as Ocean Journeys employees tested positive for the virus and Ishizuka told other staff to get tested. The Star-Advertiser reported that Holland was demoted, then fired Ishizuka on her day off, calling it “unacceptable” that she spent time with her boyfriend while telling others to quarantine herself .

Ishizuka responded by email that she had been a “cooperative employee” during her quarantine, the Star-Advertiser reported.

“A few of your employees were sick whether or not you believed in COVID,” Ishizuka wrote to Holland. “Telling us not to wear masks even though it is mandatory in the state of Hawaii is not acceptable as a business owner. You ignore what we think about what we believe in to prevent it from spreading among us and our loved ones. “

Ishizuka in his lawsuit calls out Holland’s behavior “Atrocious and utterly intolerable in a civilized society”. The lawsuit will seek pecuniary damages, the Star-Advertiser noted.

“The way my client was treated was extremely unfair and troubles me as a member of the general public,” Stewart told The Hawaii Newspaper.

Ocean Journeys declined to comment.

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