Gerardo Gutierrez, 70, contracted the virus from a fellow employee, according to the lawsuit filed Monday in Miami-Dade County. She asserts that in the early months of the pandemic the chain was concerned that face coverings might frighten customers.
CNN contacted Publix for comment but did not immediately receive a response.
Gutierrez was working at the Miami Beach site when the other employee started showing symptoms of Covid-19 on March 27-28, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit further alleges that Publix knew or should have known that the employee was showing signs and symptoms, but failed to send her home or ensure that she was not there to work.
On April 2, Gutierrez was asked to self-isolate at home, but by April 7, he had tested positive for Covid-19, according to the complaint. He passed away on April 28.
The lawsuit cites complaints from other Publix stores about its mask and glove ban policy to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, a federal agency that safeguards workplace safety.
One complaint, received on March 19 from a store in Palmetto Bay, Florida, alleges that the company “refuses to allow employees to wear gloves or masks because of the company’s claim that it will scare customers …”
CNN has reached out to OSHA for comment.
“What this case is really about is a company that is taking advantage of the backs of these workers, telling them you can’t wear a mask, you can’t wear PPE, you can’t protect yourself,” Michael Levin, one of the attorneys representing the Gutierrez family, told CNN.
The lawsuit seeks damages “in excess of $ 30,000 excluding interest and costs.”
CNN’s Phil Gast contributed to this report.