RIVERSIDE, CALIF., Jan. 10, 2022 – Supervisors at Riverside County’s flood control district ignored Covid-19 safety measures and cost a Riverside man his life, according to a lawsuit filed Monday. His family and attorneys will ask for justice and accountability at a press conference at noon Monday, Jan. 10, outside Riverside Superior Court.
Michael Haywood’s bosses knew of his underlying health issues – he was diabetic, had a respiratory condition and was a two-time cancer survivor. Yet, as the pandemic worsened, they ignored and denied his repeated accommodation requests, including the request to work from home, after Gov. Gavin Newsom’s March 2020 executive order requiring people to stay home, according to the lawsuit.
In June, when the wearing of masks was mandated under another Newsom executive order, flood control’s leadership did not ensure workers complied with safety protocols including indoor masking, social distancing, or even screening employees for exposure, the lawsuit says.
When Haywood told Brian Tieg, the flood district’s senior safety coordinator, that the department was not following Covid-19 safety measures, “Tieg told Mr. Haywood that he too was trying to implement Covid-19 precautions in the office but that upper management… was preventing him from doing so,” the lawsuit states.
On Dec. 17, 2020, contact tracing determined that Haywood and several others in the same office were exposed to the virus. By then, Haywood had already called in sick for three days. He tested positive the same day he was told of his Covid exposure. On Christmas Day he was hospitalized.
His wife Elizabeth, whose autoimmune disease made her especially vulnerable and kept her indoors at home on doctor’s orders since the pandemic’s early days, tested positive on Jan. 5, 2021.
Haywood died on Feb. 2, 2021.
“Employers like the County of Riverside are legally obligated to do everything reasonably necessary to protect the life, safety, and health of their employees.” said Attorney V. James DeSimone, of V. James DeSimone Law. DeSimone, an employment and civil rights attorney, represents Elizabeth Haywood and the couple’s adult children in the lawsuit. “The county, by deliberately refusing to institute common sense safety protocols, caused the death of a good man, husband, father, and employee.”
Among the causes of action, Riverside County is being sued for wrongful death and the violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act based on disability discrimination and the failure to provide reasonable accommodation, and more.
The county is also being sued for negligence resulting in injury to Eilzabeth Haywood, who survived her husband’s “take home” Covid-19 but was left with long-term physical conditions including cognitive and breathing problems, and psychological consequences including panic attacks and vertigo.
The lawsuit was filed Jan. 7 at Riverside County Superior Court in Riverside.
Los Angeles employment and civil rights attorney V. James DeSimone has dedicated his 35-year law career to providing vigorous and ethical representation to achieve justice for those whose civil and constitutional rights are violated.
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