November 18, 2022

The Week in FFCRA Cases Includes Multiple Worker Complaints in the Food Supply Sector

It’s time once again for Berke-Weiss Law’s roundup of FFCRA complaints. In the last week, there were five FFCRA complaints filed. We have selected three to highlight on the blog, which are all from the food industry, an area of employment that has been heavily affected by Covid-19 and which we highlighted in last week’s roundup.

The three cases include two filed by plaintiffs working in restaurants and another from a plaintiff employed in food distribution. Because the entire food supply chain has been deemed essential, workers in the industry have little ability to leave work to care for sick family members or children since the childcare industry cratered. We feel it essential to reiterate that such working conditions necessitate much stronger childcare and paid leave options than are currently available.

  • Peralta v. Eton Street Restaurant, Inc. (E.D.M.I.) 7/5/20
  • Plaintiff, a restaurant manager, sued her employer for retaliation and withholding earned wages in violation of FFCRA, FMLA, and FLSA. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Governor issued an executive order that limited restaurants to carry out service. All non-management staff were laid off and instructed to apply for unemployment but many kitchen staff continued working, collecting unemployment in place of earned wages. Plaintiff and others were expected to work while collecting unemployment benefits. They were worried about termination if they spoke up about being forced to work for free. Plaintiff then developed suspected symptoms of Covid-19. At first, her manager told her to come into work anyway, but she expressed her concern and refusal to come in and later on, Defendant told her to stay home. After weeks of no response about coming back to work, Defendant terminated Plaintiff. Plaintiff believes this is because she refused to work while collecting unemployment. 
  • Simmons v. Carmela Foods, Inc. (E.D.M.I) 7/8/20
  • Plaintiff sued her employer, a food distributor, for retaliation in violation of FFCRA and FMLA. Amid the pandemic, the governor declared a state of emergency. Plaintiff, who can perform her job responsibilities through telecommuting, began experiencing suspected symptoms of Covid-19 and informed her employer that she would be working from home. While she could not get a test, the hospital instructed her to stay home until she was fever-free for at least 72 hours. Defendant instructed Plaintiff to come to work but she refused on the hospital’s orders. When she returned, she was terminated immediately due to an uncertain economy.
  • Mackie v. Coconut Joe’s Iop LLC (U.S. District Court for South Carolina) 7/9/20
  • Plaintiff, a server, sued his employer, a restaurant, for retaliation and wrongful termination in violation of FFCRA. In response to the pandemic, Defendant’s restaurant closed temporarily pursuant to the governor’s executive order to close dine-in services. Defendant extended a job offer doing maintenance work which Plaintiff accepted. Soon, Plaintiff started experiencing suspected symptoms of COVID-19 and out of concern for his coworkers, left work to seek medical assistance. While Plaintiff made it known he had no intentions of quitting, Defendant terminated him for quitting. Defendant refused to reinstate Plaintiff. 

The other two cases filed this week are: Lopez v. Refocus Eye Health of PA, P.C. (E.D.P.A.) 7/8/20 and Herrera v. Metal Recyclers, LLC (U.S. District Court for Maryland) 7/9/20.

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