Burger King employees protest after coworker dies

An employee of a local restaurant has died after exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms and coworkers have filed a complaint with state and county regulators over safety protocols at the location.

Employees at the Santa Monica Burger King, located on the 1900 block of Pico Blvd., say Angela Martinez Gómez died on July 6 and that managers let her come to work while she exhibited symptoms consistent with COVID-19, according to the Santa Monica Daily Press.

“Several workers walked out for safety on July 6, after learning of Angela’s death,” said a complaint filed with CAL/OSHA and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. “A worker shouldn’t have to die and workers shouldn’t have to strike to call attention to COVID-19 safety at Burger King.”

According to the complaint, Martinez worked sick for a full week before leaving her shift early on June 29. The complaint states she was coughing, nauseous and taking frequent bathroom breaks. It states she was self-medicating with cold medicine and that employees learned she had died on July 6.

The complaint said a second employee also worked during the same time while exhibiting chills and a high temperature.

Yolanda Garcia filed the complaint and said she is the third employee to develop symptoms.

“I feel very worried and I have a bad headache,” she wrote. “July 8 I woke up coughing with chills, shaking and body aches, my right lung hurts making it difficult to breathe, and I am very tired. I am worried about my health and my family’s health; eight of us live together, and my brother and I both have diabetes. Last week I visited my grandchildren, and now I do not know if I have COVID-19, or if I gave it to them. I am worried.”

Garcia said she told the manager about her concerns but was told Martinez’s death was a result of medical treatment, not COVID-19 as Gomez was transgender and taking hormones.

“I don’t know of anyone who has been notified as a close contact or quarantined” said Garcia. “I told (the manager) I was going to get tested for COVID-19, and she said she was going to get tested too, but she also said she didn’t think Angela died of COVID-19, she said Angela died of injecting hormones. That doesn’t make sense to me.”

Garcia said Martinez had been taking hormones for a long time during her transformation and she couldn’t conceive of the medications suddenly causing her death. Rather, she thinks the company was trying to avoid responsibility for the situation given Martinez has been sick while on shift.

In her complaint, Garcia alleges the restaurant has not provided fresh masks for each shift, does not implement physical distancing requirements in the kitchen, has not trained staff on safety protocols and doesn’t clean frequently enough.

She is asking regulators to immediately close the location until a cleaning and safety plan has been approved. She wants employees to be paid during any temporary closure or during quarantines associated with work-place exposure and for any violations of health orders to be prosecuted.

Speaking to The Daily Press through a translator, Garcia said the first available date for a COVID test was July 16 and while she has signed up for an appointment, she continues to have symptoms such as a cough, loss of appetite, head ache, chills and weakness. She said the situation is also taking a toll on her emotional wellbeing because she is constantly thinking about the company and its lack of care for employees, their families and customers.

“I truly believe that they don’t care about our health, they don’t care about us as a people and they don’t care about anybody except their income and the money they can make. That’s all they care about,” she said.

Garcia said she wanted the community to know about the situation so they can take steps to protect themselves if they went to the restaurant and she didn’t want the situation to be a secret that could hurt more people.

Other fast-food restaurants have made national news over their failures to protect workers. Several McDonald’s restaurants in Chicago were ordered to tighten standards after a lawsuit from employees and a McDonald’s restaurant in Oakland was shut-down due to insufficient efforts to protect workers.

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