On March 27 and 28, 70-year-old deli worker Gerardo "Gerry" Gutierrez worked alongside a coworker who showed signs of COVID-19. Unfortunately, at that time, as COVID-19 was spreading through the state, Publix made the dangerous decision to prohibit their employees from wearing masks and other personal protective equipment. Publix refused to allow Gerry to exercise his right to wear a mask.
After his coworker tested positive for the virus, Gerry was sent home to isolate. Soon thereafter, he developed a cough and a fever. Within days, he tested positive and was hospitalized. Publix eventually changed course, but for Gerry, that was too little too late. On April 28, he died alone in the hospital.
His four grown children had to say goodbye over a video call.
"The sudden passing of our father has been a devastating loss to our family," Ariane Gutierrez, Gerry's daughter, said in the statement. "Our family is in shock that Publix would prevent its employees from staying safe. Because of its careless decisions, our father is not here with us today."
Stewart Tilghman Fox Bianchi & Cain, P.A. is now filing a wrongful death suit on behalf of Gerry's grieving children.
Publix Failed Its Workers & the Miami Beach Community
Publix’s conduct stood in stark contrast with its competitors. For example, the week before March 27, Krogers and other grocery chains told employees that they were working on providing masks to employees and that employees could wear their own cloth masks in the meantime.
Publix’s failures—during a pandemic—were reckless and life-threatening.
"You have a company like Publix that profited greatly throughout the pandemic on the backs of employees like Gerardo Gutierrez, and you'd imagine the least they could do for those people who showed up at work was to protect their own employees," said Attorney Michael Levine. "And then to learn they wouldn't let their employees wear masks, because they thought it would scare off their customers. That's just very troubling."
We believe this story needs to be heard in court. Not only because Gerry's children deserve justice, but because corporate misconduct like this ought to be brought to light. Decisions like the ones Gerry's employer made led directly to his infection and his eventual death, far from the comfort and physical presence of his loved ones.
STFBC intends to hold Publix fully accountable for the wrong done to Gerry and the loss suffered by his children.
To learn more about this story, read through the following news articles: