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Woman suing employer, claims it’s responsible for COVID-19 exposure

AMERICAN FORK, Utah — A woman is filing a lawsuit against her Utah County employer, claiming they ‘recklessly’ exposed her to COVID-19. Juana Victoria Flores is seeking $300,000 in damages against the company: protein bar manufacturer Built Bar.

Trouble in Utah County

KSL.com reports the timeline dates back to around March 15. Flores says that’s when rumors began circulating that someone on the production line at Built Bar’s American Fork facility had tested positive for COVID-19.

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

Around April 5, Flores said she learned four other employees had become sick. Two days later, she reportedly sent an email to the human resources department about health concerns. The very next day, she reported to have developed a cough and stopped going to work.

The news comes after two Utah County businesses were accused of ignoring health guidelines and telling COVID positive employees to return to work. Utah County officials say they’ve tracked 68 cases of coronavirus back to those two businesses.

KSL.com reports a spokeswoman with the county health department declined to confirm or deny if Built Bar was one of the two businesses.

Second side to the story

In a statement emailed to KSL.com, Built Bar refutes these 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.”

The statement continues:

“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 reads. “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.”

Built Bar’s company website also indicates it’s taking measures in response to the 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.”

Additionally, Built Bar CEO Nick Greer joined KSL Newsradio’s Dave & Dujanovic to refute the claims.

According to him, their team outlined coronavirus concerns back in March.

“One of the very first text messages we sent out to all of our people was if you have any symptoms, flu-like symptoms, please do not come into work,” he explains.

He adds they are making safety equipment readily accessible.

“We are a food manufacturer,” explains Greer. “We always have protective gear. In fact, in certain critical areas, everyone always has a mask on.”

Greer says they’ve been an open door so far with their coronavirus-related safety protocol.

“The Utah Department of Agriculture came in and we met with them,” he explains. “And we passed with flying colors. A full bill of health.”