The O’Hara Law Firm is reviewing potential cases against employers whose employees were exposed to coronavirus and died. The O’Hara Law Firm represents the child of a deceased worker in the food industry who likely was infected with COVID-19 at work. An alarming number of grocery store workers have died already from the coronavirus. Nationwide, at least 30 grocery store workers have already died from coronavirus. Another 3,000 grocery store employees stopped working because they have been exposed or sick. Family members of deceased workers should speak to an attorney handling coronavirus cases before signing anything from the employer.
The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) is lobbying the government on behalf of its union members to receive increased protection. The union wants grocery store workers classified as first responders to give them a priority for testing and protective equipment. Currently, most hospitals are only testing patients for coronavirus who have life-threatening symptoms.
Grocery stores and other retail stores that are open should provide better protection for their employees. For instance, stores could convert aisles into one-way aisles to impose social distancing. Stores should also limit the number of customers allowed in the store at one time to diminish crowding. Employers should install sneeze guards at checkout counters to reduce the risk of infection. Stores should also supply gloves and masks to their employees. Employers should screen employees who may be ill and not allow them to work in the store if they show signs of infection.
Nonsubscriber Employers in Texas
Over forty percent of Texas employers do not subscribe to workers’ compensation and thus are nonsubscribers. Nonsubscribers may be sued by their employees if they are injured as a result of the negligence of the employer. The largest percentage of employees who are not covered by workers’ compensation are workers in the grocery and retail industry. Some of the largest nonsubscribers in Texas are the following:
- Home Depot
- Academy Sports and Outdoors
- Big Lots
- Best Buy
COVID-19 Wrongful Death Claims
The estate of the deceased employee and family members of the deceased employee may have a claim against the nonsubscriber employer if the employer failed to provide a safe workplace. OSHA sets guidelines for employers to follow. Employers are required to “furnish to each of his employee’s employment and a place of employment which is free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.” Many employers have not provided adequate protective equipment to employees, have not properly screened employees to prevent infections, and have not properly enforced safety rules in their stores to reduce the risk of infection.
Some employers after learning that an employee is infected with coronavirus, have failed to notify other employees about their possible exposure to infection. This failure to warn employees increases the risk that employees will infect each other. If there are multiple employees that are infected from the same store, it is easier to prove that the employees were infected while at work instead of at some other location.
Some unscrupulous employers will offer medical care to injured employees in exchange for signing paperwork that waives all rights to pursue a lawsuit. If you are sick, do not sign any paperwork until after you have spoken with a lawyer that will review your potential coronavirus claim. The O’Hara Law Firm has reviewed potential claims for family members of several deceased workers who were infected at their place of employment. If you believe you may have a coronavirus-related claim, call us at 832-956-1138.