A production worker for a French retail bakery is suing her employer, alleging the company’s indifferent attitude during the height of the coronavirus pandemic caused her to contract the malady at work and leave her, her husband and their son with long COVID.
Ana Eveline Perez Pineda filed the suit in Los Angeles Superior Court against Vernon-based Vie de France Yamazaki Inc., alleging disability discrimination, failure to prevent discrimination, provide reasonable accommodation and to engage in a good-faith interactive process and a violation of the California Family Rights Act.
Pineda’s husband, Jose Osvalldo Perez, and son also are plaintiffs in the suit, which was filed Friday and seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
A Vie de France Yamazaki representative could not be immediately reached for comment.
Long COVID is characterized by health consequences persisting or appearing after the typical convalescence period of COVID-19 and it can affect nearly every organ system.
Pineda was hired in 2019 and was 51 years old when the state and county coronavirus stay-at-home orders were issued in March 2020, the suit states.
Pineda was concerned for her health because she was obese, had allergies and suffered from atherosclerosis, putting her at higher risk of death or severe illness from COVID-19, the suit states.
Pineda requested to work from home, but the plant manager and lawsuit co-defendant, Raymond Rodriguez, told her, “We have to keep production going,” according to her suit.
Pineda, fearing she would otherwise be fired, went to work, but many of her fellow employees did not wear masks, practice social distancing or get sent home when they had symptoms, the suit states.
“Yamazaki ignored their duty to protect their employees’ health and safety or provide Ms. Pineda with the accommodation of staying home to protect her health,” the suit alleges.
By late March 2020 Pineda herself became ill, “feeling like her head was going to explode and having chills,” the suit states.
Pineda was diagnosed with the coronavirus and quarantined at home, where within two weeks her husband and son also became infected, the suit states.
The couple’s son developed psychological symptoms from his bout with the COVID-19, including anxiety attacks, bouts of crying and depression so severe that he became suicidal and could not be left alone for months, according to the suit. Her husband also had pre-existing health problems that made him vulnerable to the coronavirus, the suit states.
When Pineda returned to work in June 2020, plant employees were not required to wear masks, nor were they provided to the workers. Pineda, her spouse and son continue to suffer debilitating COVID-19 symptoms, including brain fog, shortness of breath, headaches, vertigo, intense nausea and heart palpitation, the suit states.
Although many plant employees contracted the coronavirus, Rodriguez refused to shut down the plant and said, “This is my plant, and I will run it how I want to,” according to the suit.
In addition to their lingering physical symptoms, Pineda and her family members continue to suffer mental anguish, physical injury, pain and suffering, the suit states.