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Woman files lawsuit claiming Utah County employer 'recklessly' exposed her to COVID-19

By Lauren Bennett, KSL.com | Updated - May 15, 2020 at 9:54 p.m. | Posted - May 15, 2020 at 6:50 p.m.



SALT LAKE CITY — A woman in Utah County has filed a lawsuit against her employer, protein bar maker Built Bar, claiming they “recklessly” exposed her to COVID-19.

The suit was filed in 4th District Court on Wednesday and names Juana Victoria Flores as a plaintiff. Flores is seeking $300,000 in damages against her employer.

Around March 15, rumors circulated that someone on the production line at Built Bar's American Fork facility had tested positive for COVID-19.

The lawsuit alleges the employers held two meetings where employees were “issued threats of termination if they discussed anything related to a COVID-19 infection” at work.

About April 5, Flores said she learned four other employees had become sick and about April 7, she sent an email to the human resources department about health concerns.

On April 8, Flores developed a cough and stopped going to work, she said; the next day, her at-risk daughter showed symptoms of COVID-19.

Flores’ daughter tested positive for COVID-19 and was hospitalized at the University of Utah, where she remained as of Wednesday in critical condition, according to the lawsuit.

Flores was later tested for COVID-19 at Timpanogos Hospital. On April 13, she learned she had tested positive. Flores’ roommate, who along with her daughter is also a plaintiff on the lawsuit, tested positive for COVID-19 on the same day as well.

Two businesses in Utah County were responsible for 68 positive COVID-19, tests after failing to comply with state and federal health guidelines, the Utah County Health Department announced earlier this month.

A spokeswoman with the county health department declined on Friday to confirm or deny if Built Bar was one of the two businesses, saying it is confidential due to the epidemiological investigation.

A request for comment from Flores’ lawyer Juan Carlos Gutierrez wasn’t immediately returned on Friday evening.

According to Built Bar's company website, measures have been taken in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“We have dedicated significant time and resources to creating a production environment that is safe for employees and customers,” the website reads. “We have a team of professionals dedicated to staying up-to-date with guidelines and best practices for food manufacturers.”

In a statement emailed to KSL.com, Built Bar refuted the Flores' claims.

“The allegations of this lawsuit, however, are false,” the statement reads. “And we are eager to demonstrate our commitment to workplace health and safety in court.”

"We wish anyone suffering from COVID-19, including the individuals who filed the lawsuit, a speedy and full recovery as we all work together to fight the spread of this disease," it continued. "At Built Bar, we are dedicated to making the world a healthier and better place. That is why we recently announced an initiative to donate over 500,000 protein bars to front line doctors, nurses, staff, and healthcare professionals who are caring for patients stricken by COVID-19."

Lauren Bennett

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