A former employee is suing a trucking company after he was fired for raising concerns about workplace COVID-19 exposure.
In a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois late last month, former dockworker Jamaal Watts accused trucking company Estes Express of showing “reckless disregard” for his personal safety when they required him to continue working at a facility where two coworkers had been infected with COVID-19.
Watts reportedly told his supervisor that he was uncomfortable with the health risks but was told that he would be fired if he left early.
Watts reported to work the next day and asked to work only 8 hours “to minimize risk from the first shift employees because of his exposure the day before to the infected employees.”
When Watts reported to work the day after that, he was terminated.
In his lawsuit, Watts claims that Estes failed to “refrain from intentional wrongful conduct that placed Watts in a position of imminent danger from contracting coronavirus.”
The suit also accuses Estes of failing to properly sanitize the areas that the infected coworkers had occupied.
Watts is seeking $75,000 plus court costs.
The Watts suit is just one of what is expected to be a rash of lawsuits against employers regarding COVID-19 exposure.
In September, the U.S Department of Labor Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued a report that found a 30% increase between February to May 2020 as compared to the same period during 2019, with 39% of those whistleblower complaints related to COVID-19. Many of these complaints allege retaliation by employers against employees who pointed out social distancing concerns or other health risks.
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