A former employee of a Van Nuys health services company is suing his ex-employer, alleging he was fired less than two weeks before Christmas last year after being told to stop complaining about allegedly unsafe working conditions that ultimately caused him and some co-workers to contract the coronavirus.
Gabriel Holguin’s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit against Proactive Wellness Systems Holdings Inc. and its financial controller, Saonti Roy, alleges wrongful termination, disability discrimination, failure to accommodate, violation of the California Family Rights Act, violation of the state Labor Code and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Holguin’s alleged disability was getting sick with COVID-19.
He seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages in the suit brought Wednesday.
A Proactive Wellness representative could not be reached for comment.
Holguin was hired in November 2020 as a collector to make daily calls to insurance companies to verify information and collect payment on behalf of service providers, the suit states. Supervised by Roy, Holguin worked with about 11 other collectors and there were no walls, windows or significant barriers between the employees, some of whom faced each other, according to the suit.
The company did not enforce social distancing or require or provide employees with masks or other personal protective equipment, the suit alleges. Management also did not clean or sanitize the office, even after employees were diagnosed with the coronavirus, the suit states.
Holguin and his colleagues were not allowed to work from home, but company executives were permitted to do so, the suit states.
As employees began contracting the coronavirus, including the worker who trained the plaintiff, Holguin again asked management to clean the office, provide personal protective equipment and allow social distancing, according to his suit.
“Roy again told plaintiff to stop complaining and do his work,” the suit states.
Holguin subsequently began feeling feverish with a headache and asked to go home to obtain treatment and get a coronavirus test, the suit states. The company allegedly did not provide or pay for testing for its employees.
However, testing facilities were overwhelmed at the time and Holguin could not get a test until the following week, which brought skepticism from a human resources representative who told him he should be able to get his results that same day, the suit states.
Holguin was fired two days later on Dec. 16, the suit states.