“Essential” Employers Have Heightened Responsibilities


If you or someone you know has suffered an illness/death due to contracting Covid-19 at work, please fill out the form at the bottom of the page.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, employers may be responsible for taking actions to protect essential workers from harm associated with working during the COVID-19 (“Coronavirus”)  pandemic. Based on the obvious complications and dangers caused by COVID-19 to “essential employees,” employers will be responsible for ensuring the safety of their employees.  If the employer fails to take actions that a reasonable employer would take under the same or similar circumstances, they may face legal action.

An employee who worked for Walmart in Illinois recently died of complications from the COVID-19 virus. The estate of the deceased employee has filed a lawsuit against Walmart. The basis of this lawsuit is that the employer was negligent in protecting its employees from the risks associated with working during the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, the lawsuit alleges that Walmart is liable for the wrongful death of its employee for:

  1. Failing to provide its employees (including the deceased) with Personal Protective Equipment (masks, gloves, etc.)
  2. Failing to undertake measures to appropriately disinfect the store
  3. Failing to sufficiently advise employees about the risks they faced working during the pandemic
  4. Failing to inform employees that other employees at the store had tested positive for the Coronavirus.  

A wrongful death lawsuit like the one filed in Illinois could be filed in Wisconsin, although the law only allows for certain people to bring wrongful death actions. These people include:

  • The personal representative of the deceased person’s estate
  • The surviving spouse of the decedent
  • The domestic partner of the decedent 
  • The child of the decedent
  • The parent or guardian of the decedent

Damages typically awarded in a wrongful death lawsuit include:

  • Any medical expenses for treatment of injuries resulting from the negligent act that led to the death
  • Funeral expenses
  • Lost wages or income that the decedent would have earned if they had not been killed
  • Loss of society and companionship

A wrongful death lawsuit may also include a survivorship claim, which seeks compensation for the deceased person’s pain and suffering prior to their death. If the deceased person experienced prolonged mental or health complications as a result of COVID-19 prior to their death, the party that brings the wrongful death claim could also bring a survivorship claim.

If your family member is or was an “essential employee” and has contracted and/or died from complications of COVID-19, you may want to discuss the facts of your case with an experienced attorney to determine whether a claim may be brought on behalf of your loved one.  The attorneys at Halling & Cayo, S.C. will be happy to discuss such a claim with you. Please contact us today.