The family of a Florida Publix employee who died of COVID-19 in April has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Lakeland-based grocery chain.
The family is seeking around $30,000 in damages.
As first reported by the Tampa Bay Times, relatives of Gerardo Gutierrez – who was a deli employee at a Miami Beach store – have filed suit against Publix, faulting management at the grocery chain for not allowing Gutierrez to wear a mask on the job as the coronavirus pandemic ramped up in Florida.
Gutierrez repeatedly asked to wear a mask at work in March, but was rebuffed by supervisors. On March 27-28, he worked alongside a co-worker who was showing symptoms of COVID-19, and who later tested positive. At this time, deli employees were forbidden from wearing any type of mask.
Gutierrez was sent home to quarantine on April 2, and was in the hospital with coronavirus symptoms a few days later.
Gutierrez passed away in the hospital from COVID-19 complications at the end of April.
“The sudden passing of our father has been a devastating loss to our family,” daughter Ariane Gutierrez said in a statement. “Our family is in shock that Publix would prevent its employees from staying safe. Because of its careless decisions, our father is not here with us today.”
Publix only began requiring employees to mask up on the job starting April 20. And it wasn’t until July that customers were required to wear masks at Publix stores.
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