As Americans stock up on supplies to get through quarantine, grocery store workers have become some of the most essential workers in the country. Unfortunately, they’re also some of the most vulnerable when it comes to contracting COVID-19.
NBC News reports that the family of 51-year-old Wando Evans is suing Walmart over what they claim was “willful and wanton misconduct, reckless disregard and gross negligence.” Evans was an overnight stocker at a Chicago area Walmart. The suit alleges that management ignored Evans when he brought it to their attention that he was experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. He was eventually sent home on March 23 and only two days later he was found dead in his home.
From NBC News:
Walmart “had a duty to exercise reasonable care in keeping the store in a safe and healthy environment and, in particular, to protect employees, customers and other individuals within the store from contracting COVID-19 when it knew or should have known that individuals at the store were at a very high risk of infection and exposure,” the lawsuit states.
Walmart has been criticized for being slow to act to protect both its employees and customers from contracting the virus. Only last week did they announce they were taking precautionary measures such as checking workers’ temperatures. Melissa Love has been a Walmart employee for four years and is a member of United for Respect, a labor advocacy group. She told NBC News “They didn’t pass the emergency leave policy until an employee tested positive for COVID-19 in Kentucky. They stalled for weeks implementing social distancing after the CDC announced guidelines on March 16, and most of us still don’t even have access to gloves, masks or hand sanitizer.”
This is not a good look for Walmart if the allegations prove to be true. Employees are putting themselves at risk to provide the essential goods the public needs to get through quarantine. Preventive measures aren’t all that preventive if they’re issued after the problem has already taken hold.