MAYFIELD, Ky. — As a catastrophic tornado approached this city on Friday, employees of a candle factory — which would later be destroyed — heard the warning sirens and wanted to leave the building. But at least four workers told NBC News that supervisors warned employees they would be fired if they left their shifts early.

For hours, as word of the coming storm spread, up to 15 workers beseeched managers to allow them to take shelter at their own homes, only to have their requests rebuffed, the workers said.

Fearing their safety, some in fact left during their shifts regardless of the repercussions.

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