Riverside County failed to protect employee from COVID-19, resulting in his death, lawsuit says


The family of a Yucaipa man who died from COVID-19 complications has filed a lawsuit against Riverside County, alleging workplace negligence that led to his catching the virus.

Michael Haywood, 61, died last February. His family says he contracted the virus at the Riverside County Flood Control and Water Conservation District, where he had worked for 15 years.

“I honestly feel like my husband would be here today if somebody had listened to him,” said his wife, Elizabeth Haywood.

The family’s attorney says Haywood had diabetes, hypertension and was a cancer survivor, adding that he had made repeated requests to work from home because of those preexisting conditions.

“California employers have an obligation to do everything reasonably necessary to provide for the health, the safety and for the lives of their employees. That’s the law under California’s labor code,” said attorney James DeSimone.

He says Haywood had asked for several work exemptions because he was afraid being in the office would put him at higher risk of contracting COVID.

“The protocols were there that they could have followed to save Michael Haywood’s life and they deliberately chose not to,” DeSimone added.

He is now asking other possible plaintiffs to come forward as well.

Riverside County says it cannot comment on the pending litigation, but says it takes all necessary precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and protect its employees.

Riverside County Sheriff’s Department | Contributed

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