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Quality Sausage forced employees to come to work sick, family claims in wrongful death lawsuit

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins confirmed last week that there was an outbreak of COVID-19 at a meat packaging facility.
Credit: Dominguez family

Updated at 4:55 p.m. with information from the family who filed the lawsuit.

The family of a Quality Sausage Company employee who died from COVID-19 has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the meat packaging company, new documents show.

Hugo Dominguez died on April 25 after he contracted the disease at the West Dallas plant, the lawsuit alleges. The family claims the company was negligent towards its employees, and wants the company held liable for Dominguez's death. 

Dominguez first started experiencing symptoms on April 15, his family says.

“It’s hard,” his fiancé Blanca Parra said. “I’m working hard every day to don’t break up myself because I have to be strong for my kids.”

Parra has two children with Dominguez. He died at just 36 years old.

Employees, including Dominguez, were made to keep coming to work even when they told supervisors they were sick, according to the lawsuit. Otherwise, they were told they would be laid off.  

"He was a victim of a workplace which gave more importance to profits, than human life," the lawsuit said. 

RELATED: 'A lot of pressure to produce': Dallas meat packaging employees say they had to keep working despite coronavirus outbreak

The plant "refused to take the pandemic seriously, and kept its functions as normal, taking no precautions and implementing no protocols for the safety of its workers," even after employees reported being sick by April 8, the lawsuit claimed. 

“They don’t care about their lives, they don’t care if they get sick or die, they just want their money, their production,” Parra said. “They don’t care about my family, they don’t care about other people’s families.”

Employees were also not given personal protective equipment nor asked to maintain six feet of distance from each other in accordance with CDC guidelines and Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins' orders, the lawsuit alleges, creating an unsafe work environment.  

Dominguez was one of two employees at the plant who died after testing positive for COVID-19, Carlos Quintanilla of Accion America said during a news conference held April 28. The other worker who died was Mathias Martinez. Both men were in their 30s.

Quality Sausage would not comment on the lawsuit. They have temporarily paused operations as they assess their response to the virus, and say the company has "continually updated" procedures to follow CDC and OSHA guidelines.

“The health and well-being of our employees is extremely important to us,” the company said in a statement. “The spread of COVID-19 across the country and within our community is challenging all of us.”

Dominguez was "a man with a strong work ethic and deep commitment to his children and family, he continued to work till the day he just couldn’t go on, and a few days later he was gone," according to the lawsuit.  

Quintanilla said the facility closed on April 24, a week after an employee tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Of the 500 employees at the plant, he said 52 had tested positive as of last week, along with dozens more that were waiting on results. 

“We’ve been in contact with those who have been affected and those who have not been affected,” Quintanilla said. “They indicated to us that on April 22 was the first time that they gave anyone one of the face masks and that’s the first action that this company took to prevent the spread of COVID, to basically protect its workers.”

He said on Monday morning an employee contacted him after Quality Sausage called the worker to go get tested.

“So now after all the media, and after all the pressure that’s been put on them, they are beginning to call their workers to go get tested for COVID 19,” Quintanilla said. “That’s shameful."

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins confirmed last week that there is an outbreak at a meat packaging facility, but the county has not confirmed the number of positive cases. 

County health officials said they are investigating the spread of the disease at Quality Sausage. 

Parra just hopes as life continues without her partner that no more death comes from the place he used to work.

“He was my support,” Parra said. “Not only in an economic way, he was the support in my life.”

WFAA digital reporter Jay Wallis contributed to this report. 

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