The estate of a Walmart worker who died of coronavirus is suing the retailer, alleging it failed to provide workers with protective masks and gloves, failed to suitably disinfect the store and failed to be straight up with workers about the risks they faced.
Wando Evans, a 51-year-old man who was a Walmart /zigman2/quotes/207374728/composite WMT +1.17% associate for 15 years, died March 25 as a result of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
Four days later, another co-worker at the Evergreen Park, Ill. store died from complications about the virus. In a wrongful death lawsuit filed Monday, Evans’ estate alleges that the blame lies with Walmart.
Walmart management didn’t warn Evans and others “that various individuals were experiencing symptoms at the store and may have been infected by COVID-19 which was present and active within in the store,” the lawsuit said.
Evans was healthy man, according to his estate’s attorney, Tony Kalogerakos of Lincolnwood, Il. The deaths could have been “avoided if [management] was more transparent with teammates and customers,” Kalogerakos told MarketWatch.
The lawsuit, seeking unspecified damages, was filed in Circuit Court of Cook County.
Walmart said it was taking the allegations seriously.
“We are heartbroken at the passing of two associates at our Evergreen Park store and we are mourning along with their families. While neither associate had been at the store in more than a week, we took action to reinforce our cleaning and sanitizing measures, which include a deep-cleaning of key areas,” Randy Hargrove, a Walmart spokesman, said in a statement.
The store then passed a third-party safety assessment, but Walmart also used an outside company to give an extra cleaning to high-traffic areas in the store, Hargrove said.
Walmart is planning to hire another 150,000 workers to keep up with demand. But the lawsuit from Evans’ estate alleges the retailer quickly hired new employees over the phone or through other “remote means” without checking if new workers might have COVID-19.
The massive retailer has been adding extra cleaning steps, installing sneeze guards at registers, limiting the amount of customers in a store at any one time and putting decals on the floor to remind shoppers about social distancing rules, Hargrove said.
There were 12,262 confirmed cases in Illinois and 307 deaths as of Monday, according to numbers from the state’s health authorities. There were 356,942 confirmed cases and 10,524 deaths in the U.S. as of Monday evening, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.
Walmart shares are up 6% from the start of the year. The Dow Jones Industrial Average /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA -1.85% is down more than 17% in that same time, while the S&P 500 /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX -1.42% is down 14.5%.