TURLOCK, Calif. (KTXL) — A Turlock family has now filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Safeway after they say their loved one contracted COVID-19 at a distribution center and died.
Pedro Zuniga’s family’s attorney says a lack of protective equipment, zero social distancing and what he calls a retaliatory system when employees called in sick led to Zuniga’s death.
“Mr. Zuniga was not just an essential worker but he was a father, he was a grandfather, he was a husband, he was a beloved member of the community,” attorney Paul Matiasic said.
As FOX40 reported, Zuniga died of COVID-19 in April.
His son had said his dad got sick from a co-worker at the Safeway Distribution Center in Tracy.
“It’s hard just because I feel like his death could have been prevented,” Jose Valencia, Zuniga’s son, told FOX40 in April.
Matiasic says employees were inclined to show up to work because of a problematic points system.
“Miss another day of work, you accrue additional points and at that juncture, you get another warning and then you can be fired,” Matiasic said.
Matiasic also claims that Safeway had spread misinformation about the virus.
“There were talking points posted around the facility saying things like ‘COVID can’t be transmitted from person-to-person contact,’” he said.
Safeway issued a statement in April:
We continue to reinforce with all associates the importance of social distancing as the most effective tool we have to combat the spread of COVID-19.
It also outlined how they now supply employees with masks, hand sanitizer and have increased cleanings within the center.
However, Matiasic argues these measures were only set in place after at least 51 employees got sick and Zuniga had been hospitalized.
“If they had followed federal and state guidelines, we wouldn’t be in this position,” he said.
Safeway did not respond to a request for comment by Thursday afternoon.