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An Illinois Judge Allows Fast Food Workers to Continue Pursuing Their Case of Improper Protection from COVID-19

Workers across Chicagoland and all of Illinois have always faced the challenge of dealing with workplaces that may provide inadequate safety protections. Today, though, workers face a new challenge: employers that fail to provide them with the level of protection against novel coronavirus that the law says those workers are entitled to receive. If your employer isn’t following the prescribed guidance and is placing you at risk, the legal system here in Illinois may offer an opportunity to recover much-needed relief, so be sure to reach out to an experienced Chicago workplace injury attorney right away.

One recent case that offers some important good news comes from right here in Cook County, Risk and Insurance reported. The workers who brought that lawsuit were a group of fast-food employees who worked for McDonald’s. According to the workers, their employer required them to work in close proximity to potentially infected coworkers, contrary to the six-foot social distancing space recommended by the CDC. Additionally, the workers alleged that mask-wearing protocols were not being followed at their workplaces.

Already, the workers have cleared two important hurdles, according to the report. First, the workers defeated the employer’s request for summary judgment in its favor that would have thrown out the lawsuit. The judge stated that, “even if a remedy could be found in administrative bodies,” that doesn’t mean that the workers could not pursue, and potentially win, their case.

Subsequently, the workers were successful in persuading the judge to enter a preliminary injunction. That injunction required certain McDonald’s restaurants that were not in compliance with Governor Pritzker’s social distancing and mask requirements to enforce all mask-wearing policies and to train employees on social distancing in a way that is consistent with the governor’s orders.

The workers successfully used a unique cause of action

One of the things that made the workers’ case unique is the cause of action that they used to take on their employer. Their case asserted that, by failing to provide a properly safe workplace, the employer had violated public nuisance laws. In the past, public nuisance laws were typically used in property cases, such as a landowner whose business is offensively smelly or loud. Illinois law, however, does not actually define a public nuisance that narrowly. The law says that a nuisance is something that “unlawfully annoys or does damage to another” and that “is offensive, physically, to the senses and by such offensiveness makes life uncomfortable.”

According to the judge, McDonald’s failure to have its workers social distance and wear masks could spread the disease and that spread could potentially amount to a public nuisance under Illinois law. “McDonald’s has created an environment that leads employees, including managers, to believe they can take off their masks and stand within 6 feet of each other as long as they do not do so in excess of 10 minutes. This increases the health risk for the employees, their families and the public as a whole and conflicts with the Governor’s Order on social distancing potentially undoing any good it has done as we fight this incredibly contagious disease,” the judge wrote in ruling for the workers.

In the world of COVID-19, many people have become “essential” workers. They range from supermarket cashiers to doctors and nurses to Amazon warehouse workers to first responders to fast food restaurant employees. If you’ve been harmed by an employer who is not doing what it should to protect you from COVID-19, you need a skilled attorney to represent you. Your employer undoubtedly does, so be sure you don’t go it alone. Count on the knowledgeable Chicago workplace injury attorneys at Katz, Friedman, Eisenstein, Johnson, Bareck & Bertuca to help you in achieving positive results in your case. To set up a free case evaluation, contact us at 800-444-1525 or through our website.

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