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Lawsuits Over Coronavirus Lay-Offs Begin

On Tuesday the 18th of May in Chicago, a group of McDonald’s employees filed suit against the fast-food company for failing to adopt officially sanctioned safety guidelines for the virus. 

According to the suit, McDonald’s failed to provide hand sanitizer in sufficient quantities, gloves, or masks on an occasion around which an employee became infected. The employees seek an injunction to force McDonald’s to stop directing employees to reuse masks, to require customers to wear masks, to provide more hand sanitizer, and to let their staff know if they are working with someone who has been infected.

McDonald’s says the claims are not accurate.

“Crew and managers are the heart and soul of the restaurants in which they work, and their safety and well-being is a top priority that guides our decision making,” McDonald’s said in a statement. “These include wellness checks, protective barriers, adhering to social distancing guidelines for customers and crew, using gloves and masks, increasing the frequency of handwashing, and moving to contactless operations.”

In California, a similar lawsuit has been filed against McDonald’s with the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health. The claims allege that the fast-food company allowed similar unsafe conditions as those alleged against the Chicago branch and that hospitalizations and deaths were the predictable result.

These lawsuits against McDonald’s are just a sample of the many such legal actions against corporations that have called employees back to work in recent days. Other companies facing lawsuits over new coronavirus infections include Walmart, Tyson Foods, and JBS S.A.

As the fear of the Coronavirus begins to subside, more and more workers have had their job descriptions removed from the list of “non-essential” functions. While many have been able to continue to work from home as telecommuting facilities have been increasing, many of those whose workplaces have reopened have been exposed to the coronavirus and have died as a consequence.

This does not change the fact that, as the CDC and other healthcare organizations have indicated, the overall death rate for infected people is less than one half of a percent. Despite this, many people are saying that letting employees return to work exposed them to an unreasonably high risk of dying from COVID-19. 

It should be mentioned that since people have been returning to work, more have been hurt and killed in car accidents on their way to work than have died of the Coronavirus. Still, no one is suing over automotive-related casualties. 

Whether or not the increase in traffic accidents as a result of increased commuter activity will spur lawsuits against the National Highway and Transportation Safety Administration is uncertain. 

What is likely is that disproportionate reporting on the actual danger posed by the virus will continue to inspire both fear and blame into the foreseeable future.


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