Employee sues Utah company for recklessly exposing her family to the coronavirus.
According to a recently filed lawsuit, Juana Victoria Flores’ disabled daughter is in critical condition with COVID-19 after the woman’s employer, Built Bar in Utah, ignored her pleas for the company to take safety precautions preventing the spread of the virus.
When Flores first learned some of her co-workers that she worked in close proximity with on the production line making protein bars had become ill with what they felt was likely COVID-19, Flores said she emailed Built Bars’ human resources department.
“I believe it will be good to have a professional company clean up or fumigate. I believe the lack of ventilation keeps the place infected, we make food and we don’t want more people getting sick,” Flores said in the April 7 email, according to the filing. “I wish the best for the company and felt I needed to let you know…I am really concerned.”
The lawsuit contends, “Flores never received a reply to her email, and her employers did not take the necessary precautions to prevent the virus’ spread.” The very next day, she stopped working after developing COVID-19 symptoms. Before it closed, the American Fork facility experienced an outbreak where 6% of staff were infected in total. The facility was shut down for weeks and reopened just a few weeks ago.
“The first rumors of a sick employee at the protein bar company began circulating March 15,” according to the filing. Flores worked on a production line with “at least 10 other employees in close proximity to one another….As these rumors intensified, (Built Bar) held two separate meetings wherein employees, including Flores, were issued threats of termination if they discussed anything related to a COVID-19 infection at (Built Bar) facilities…On April 9, Flores’ daughter, who has Down syndrome and cardiac deficiencies, developed symptoms of COVID-19. Her daughter needed to go to University of Utah Hospital, where she remains in critical condition.”
Built Bar co-founder and CEO Nick Greer said the company received “a lot of emails during that time” and “shut down our facilities, changed our entire process, put tape on the ground and implemented temperature checks for all employees.” He said the company “paid employees while aggressive cleaning, including fumigation, was done at the facility.” Greer added, “We’ve all faced new challenges. We’ve worked proactively to address these issues to ensure our people and our products are safe.”
He said there have been no COVID-19 cases since reopening, saying, “We feel for Victoria and her family and we sincerely hope her daughter is able to recover soon. I wish we would’ve known about this sooner.”
Flores’ lawsuit seeks more than $300,000 in damages, including medical expenses. It follows reports that two unidentified Utah County businesses told employees confirmed to be diagnosed with COVID-19 to still report to work before the required quarantine period ended. Their actions resulted in at least 68 positive cases, according to officials.
Greer said Built Bar, “has not been found to be in any violation and was recently audited by the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food and given a clean bill of health.”
“We care deeply about our people, our customers, our partners,” he said.