Couple alleges wrongful termination for calling in sick with COVID-19 symptoms

Coronavirus
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GREELEY, Colo. (KDVR) – Two women say they were wrongfully terminated from a Greeley meat production plant in March when they stayed away from the facility because of having COVID-19 symptoms.

Ann Day said she and her wife, Tammy Day, were fired from JBS after calling in sick on March 27.

Ann said her energy was very low, and she had a deep cough. Tammy said she was also coughing and had a headache.

“When the COVID-19 came out…they were telling people that it didn’t matter, if you displayed these symptoms – cough, fever, sneezing, headaches, anything – do not come into work, and there would be no punishment,” said Tammy Day.

Tammy said she and her wife called the absence-reporting line at JBS to say they weren’t feeling well, but when they reported to work the following Monday, they were turned away from the plant.

“I love my job, and I really thought in this time of our need – and the nation’s need – that I thought you guys had my back,” Ann said.

A JBS spokesperson, Nikki Richardson, said the case is being reviewed.

“We are investigating the situation and ensuring the appropriate steps were taken,” said Richardson. “We have numerous health and safety policies in place during this challenging time, and we do not want sick team members coming to work. Additionally, if any team member is fearful of coming to work they can simply call the company and inform us, and they will receive unpaid leave without any consequence to their employment.”

The union representing JBS workers, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7, said the Day family consulted with a doctor after they were turned away from work, and each woman obtained a note that confirmed their symptoms and encouraged them to self-isolate.

“JBS’ behavior is symptomatic of how sick workers are often treated,” the union said in a statement. “The Union has filed a grievance over the Days’ termination and will continue to aggressively seek compensation for their discharge in violation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.”

The Days said they have had previous conflict with the company during other absences. In January, for example, Ann said the couple missed five days of work for similar COVID19-type symptoms.

She said the company refused to accept the doctor’s note she provided.

“They put us on a ‘final,’” she said, referring to a final notice that further absences or problems could result in termination.

Tammy said her note was not accepted in January either. “I handed the guy my note, and he just pushed it back and said, ‘I’m not accepting that,’” she said.

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