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Widow Of Safeway Distribution Center Employee Who Died From COVID-19 Suing Supermarket Chain

TRACY (CBS13) — The widow of a Safeway employee who died of coronavirus is suing the supermarket chain, saying her husband was forced to work in close contact with other workers at the Tracy plant who had symptoms of the virus.

Norma Zuniga, the wife of 52-year-old Pedro Zuniga, sued Safeway for negligence, wrongful death, fraudulent concealment of injury. Pedro worked at the Tracy distribution center for about 22 years.

The lawsuit claims that when employees expressed their concerns in mid-March, they were met with threats of disciplinary action, including possibly getting "points" that could lead to termination.

Pedro Zuniga was tested for coronavirus on April 1 after having a fever and other symptoms. A few days later that test came back positive and he was admitted to the hospital on April 4 with pneumonia. A day later, he was taken to the ICU where he was intubated and put in a medically-induced coma. He died on April 13.

Four days later, a spokesperson for Safeway confirmed at least 51 employees, about 3% of the 1,700 employees at the distribution center, tested positive for coronavirus.

The lawsuit alleges that the company did not begin taking safety precautions for employees seriously until after Pedro's death.

On April 15, a spokesperson for Safeway issued the following statement to CBS13:

"We were saddened to learn that an associate at our Tracy Distribution Center has passed away due to complications related to COVID-19. Our hearts are heavy, and our thoughts are with that associate's family. This is difficult for the entire Safeway team. We are letting our associates know that if they are feeling uneasy, they can call our Employee Assistance Program to speak with licensed counselors.  We're working to assist the associate's family during this difficult time through the Safeway Foundation's We Care program – a charitable program designed to support our associates during unanticipated financial hardships and emergencies."

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