The COVID-19 pandemic has created plenty of confusion for employees regarding the application of California’s workers’ compensation laws. Although the state has some of the most comprehensive workers’ comp laws on the books, the fact remains California is playing catch-up when it comes to providing insurance coverage for employees that contract the virus on the job.
Because of the uncertainty of how California workers’ compensation laws apply to the COVID-19 pandemic, employees have come to us to help them take legal action against their employers for not protecting them in the workplace.
Former Driver and PLBSH Law Firm File a Lawsuit Against Ex-Employer
Shawn Zamora hired PLBSH to file a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court against his former employer TerraChem for not enforcing the social distancing guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). He also alleges in the civil lawsuit that his former employer forced him to resign because of the lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), as well as having to endure the claims made by his supervisor that the Coronavirus pandemic is a hoax.
Zamora’s civil lawsuit specifically alleges retaliatory tactics, wrongful dismissal, failure to reasonably accommodate, and failure to take the steps required to stop discrimination in the workplace. The civil lawsuit seeks both punitive and compensatory damages.
Overview of the Civil Lawsuit
TerraChem, which produces and delivers chemicals to oil and gas companies, operates a facility in Spring Hill California where Zamora worked. As a technician and hazmat driver, Zamora started working for TerraChem in the early summer of 2018. His job description included managing the inventory of the company’s hazmat chemicals and delivering the chemicals according to the guidelines established by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA).
According to the brief filed in the civil lawsuit, Zamora frequently watched TerraChem “intentionally and unlawfully transporting intentionally mislabeled hazardous materials, flagrantly and unlawfully neglecting to conform to state Department of Transportation regulations and recklessly and unlawfully storing flammable materials in (TerraChem’s) warehouse without proper safety methods.”
Zamora also claims TerraChem ignored unsafe workplace practices, with his immediate supervisor referring to the Coronavirus pandemic as a hoax.
Unsafe Working Conditions
Zamora suffered an injury to his right shoulder while he tried to load a five-gallon bucket full of hazardous chemicals into a truck. Since the injury took place in a work-related environment, Zamora had a solid case to apply for workers’ compensation benefits. He also suffers from diabetes and a congenital defect that makes him more vulnerable to contract the COVID-19 virus.
Zamora never asked for workplace accommodations to help him manage his diabetes and congenital defect. However, the civil lawsuit states that Zamora was “justifiably concerned that he was at particularly high risk of infection due to his pre-existing medical conditions and disabilities.” He also made it clear that TerraChem failed to provide him with PPE and failed to enforce the CDC guidelines for social distancing.
The Legal Impacts of Coronavirus in the Workplace
Without clear guidelines written into California workers’ compensation laws regarding COVID-19 and the workplace, the best legal action an employee can take against an employer is to file a civil lawsuit. If your employer failed to provide a safe work environment by not enforcing social distancing and not providing PPE for its workers, you might qualify to receive just compensation, whether the compensation comes in the form of a workers’ compensation claim or the money awarded by a judge presiding over a civil lawsuit.
To learn more about COVID-19 and the workplace, contact the California-licensed attorneys at the PLBSH law firm by calling our office at (800) 435-7542 or by submitting the Contact form found on our website.