An employee at a Santa Monica Burger King filed a complaint with the state and the county following the death of a transgender co-worker who continued working despite showing symptoms of COVID-19.
The complaint alleges that at least one manager of the fast-food restaurant at 1919 Pico Blvd. blamed the death of Angela Martinez on hormone injections. And it states, as another employee has developed coronavirus symptoms, other workers are concerned about what they deem “dangerous” conditions in the restaurant: infrequent cleaning of high-touch surfaces, lack of face masks and lax enforcement of social distancing.
Employee Yolanda Santiago Garcia is calling for the immediate closure of the restaurant, asking that all employees be quarantined with pay and “to take all appropriate steps to hold Burger King accountable for the dangerous and deadly conditions it has demanded that we work in,” the complaint states.
The complaint was sent to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and also sent to the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, according to the five-page document obtained by KTLA.
Martinez died on Monday after working for a week with “severe” symptoms, according to the complaint. She was coughing, nauseated and “running to the restroom a lot” before going home sick on June 29.
Shortly after, another employee, identified as Mariela, developed symptoms. Even after having a high temperature, a manager allowed Mariela to keep working, the complaint alleges.
Despite two employees experiencing symptoms, the location was not closed for deep cleaning, nor were close contacts notified or quarantined, according to the complaint.
Employees allege that managers are in violation of Los Angeles County health orders and paid sick laws, and should be cited.
“Burger King has kept us in the dark and our lives and our families are at risk. Burger King has not told us there are COVID-19 cases or suspected cases at the store and they are not being honest about what happened with Angela and Mariela,” Garcia says in a statement in the complaint.
“Angela had COVID-19 symptoms at work, but Burger King blamed her sexuality instead of COVID-19 as the cause of her death. Angela was a transgender woman, and management said she died, ‘from injecting hormones’ … that doesn’t make sense to me.”
Garcia said she is “very worried,” about her health after having a bad headache and waking up recently with chills, body aches, chest pains and difficulty breathing.
“I am worried about my health and my family’s health; eight of us live together, and my brother and I both have diabetes,” she said in the complaint. “Last week I visited my grandchildren, and now I do not know if I have COVID-19, or if I gave it to them.”
She added that she is afraid Burger King will retaliate against her for speaking out by cutting her hours.
On Friday, several employees held a silent protest in front of the fast-food restaurant. Many held signs with pictures of Martinez reading “Say her name,” and placed roses on a makeshift memorial.
“We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Angela Martinez Gómez, who had worked at Burger King for more than fifteen years,” a Burger King spokesperson said in a written statement to KTLA. “The restaurant will undergo a deep disinfection this evening.”
The restaurant will remain open after the cleaning, the spokesperson said. And, all employees who were in contact with Martinez “during their most recent shifts” are being instructed to quarantine, according to the statement.
Update: A GoFundMe page raising money for funeral expenses has been set up.