The family of a Publix deli employee who died from the coronavirus in April has filed a lawsuit against the supermarket chain, alleging the 70-year-old was barred from wearing a mask to work and ultimately contracted the deadly virus from a co-worker. Gerardo Gutierrez, 70, died on April 28 after contracting COVID-19 from a fellow employee at the Publix in Miami Beach. The lawsuit, which was filed on Monday, claims the deli employee tested positive in late March, after Publix denied his request to wear a mask to work because the protective gear would “scare off customers.” “That Publix chose profits over the safety of its employees is shameful. These employees, including Gerardo Gutierrez, continued to show up at work to help our communities. The least Publix could have done was to allow employees to exercise their personal freedom and protect themselves from the spread of the virus,” Michael Levine, an attorney for the family, said in a statement.
Although the supermarket chain later reversed its stance on masks, Gutierrez was already home sick with the virus and was forced to die alone after saying goodbye to his four adult children over video chat, the lawsuit states. His family is now suing Publix for more than $30,000 in damages. “The sudden passing of our father has been a devastating loss to our family,” Ariane Gutierrez said in a statement. “He was a very kind, loving, and hardworking man that is greatly missed by many. He was truly loved by the people in his life. Our family is in shock that Publix would prevent its employees from staying safe. Because of its careless decisions, our father is not here with us today.”