The estate of 51-year-old Wando Evans, who contracted the coronavirus and died from the illness last month, has sued his employer, Walmart, alleging it failed to provide workers with protective masks and gloves and failed to properly disinfect the store. According to a report on Marketwatch.com, Evans was employed by Walmart for 15 years at a store in Evergreen Park, Illinois, and died March 25 as a result of COVID-19. Four days later, Evans’s co-worker at the store died from complications of the coronavirus.
Allegations of Negligence
The lawsuit alleges that the fault for these deaths lies with Walmart because the management did not warn its employees that various individuals at the store were experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and may have been infected by the potential virus. The lawsuit also states Evans was a healthy man and that his death could have been avoided if the store’s management had been more upfront with him and his co-workers about the situation.
The Walmart store in question has reportedly been taking several steps at that store, but not before these two workers died from the illness. The lawsuit also makes other serious allegations. For example, it states Walmart hired new workers over the phone or through other remote means without checking whether or not they had been infected by the virus.
Workers Have Rights
Workers, whether or not they have been deemed “essential” during the time of this pandemic, have the right to a safe and healthy work environment. Workers who are considered essential such as grocery workers and those who deliver vital goods and services must be equipped with proper personal protective equipment such as gloves, masks, gowns, face shields, etc. Stores must properly sanitize and deep-clean each day not just to keep their customers safe, but also their workers safe and healthy.
During this time, it is also important to remember that it is illegal for your employer to retaliate against you if you report unsafe and unhealthful working conditions at your place of employment during the coronavirus pandemic. Acts of retaliation include firing, demotions, denials of overtime or promotion or reductions in pay or hours. Workers have the right to file a whistleblower complaint online with OSHA (1-800-321-OSHA) if they believe their employer has retaliated against them for exercising their rights under the whistleblower protection laws enforced by the agency.
If you believe that your safety or your rights as a worker have been violated, an experienced California employment law attorney can help you better understand your legal rights and options.