SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — As the number of coronavirus-related employee deaths grow, so does the anxiety among essential workers.
The Law Offices of Tanya Gomerman says in the last two weeks, it has received several calls from employees who don’t have enough protective gear and are exploring legal action. Most of them have said they were fired or retaliated against for saying they felt unsafe at work, or refused to do tasks they felt were unsafe.READ MORE: UPDATE: 2 Men Shot Outside South Bay High School Football Playoff Game
“Lot of people are afraid, you know they’re really afraid, they’re afraid of losing their income, they’re afraid of losing their jobs, and they’re afraid of making sure that their family are protected from getting COVID,” said Managing Partner Maria Bourn.
Bourn handles employment litigation.
“Under California, you have the right to make a protected complaint to say, look, I don’t feel safe and not face termination, and if you are terminated or retaliated against you have the right to bring a claim against your employer,” she said.
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The family of Walmart worker Wando Evans, who died of complications from COVID-19 in the Chicago-area, is now suing the retailer. They are accusing managers of ignoring his symptoms and failing to let colleagues know he may have contracted the coronavirus.
The wrongful death lawsuit also names Phillip Thomas, another employee at the store, who died four days later.
“I kept seeing on the news that I felt like they were making my brother a number. He’s not a number. He’s a person. He was a very good guy. He worked at Walmart for nine years. He had lots of friends there. They were devastated as well as we are,” said Thomas’ sister Angela McMiller.
McMiller said for weeks her brother and his coworkers worked without masks or gloves. There was no enforced social distancing at the time and inadequate paid leave did not ensure people weren’t going to work sick.
Walmart said in a statement it was “heartbroken” to learn of the passing of two associates.MORE NEWS: COVID: Highly Contagious Omicron Variant Prompts New Travel Restrictions
The company has also taken action across the country to reinforce its cleaning and sanitizing measures. It has installed sneeze guards at registers and limited the number of customers in a store at a given time.