A former Walmart employee filed a whistleblower lawsuit claiming she was fired after informing police that the New Jersey store she worked at was violating social distancing guidelines amid the pandemic.
Ejonte Gilyard, 27, of Passaic, alleges that the Walmart managers violated the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act by firing her in retaliation for her complaints, NJ.com reported on Wednesday.
She is seeking a jury trial, lost wages and damages for emotional distress.
Upon the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Walmart instituted capacity restrictions that only allowed five customers for each 1,000 square foot of store space, according to the lawsuit.
At the store where Gilyard worked, employees were instructed that only 428 customers plus the Walmart employees were allowed in the store at a time.
Gilyard states in the lawsuit that on May 2, she was approached by workers and customers “with safety concerns and complaints about the number of people in the store, and the failure to follow social distancing guidelines.”
The number of customers inside the store “escalated throughout the day,” even after Gilyard claims she alerted the store’s managers.
She then contacted the Garfield Police Department out of concern “for the safety of the customers and employees in the store,” the lawsuit states.
Police officers reportedly came and left the store without speaking to workers or those concerned.
Gilyard alleges that she was confronted by the managers who asked if she knew anything about the complaint made to police. She reportedly reiterated her concerns about the store being over capacity.
She alleges she was fired just a few days later after she told managers that an irate customer was not adhering to social distancing practices.
“We take allegations like this seriously and do not tolerate retaliation. We are looking into this and will respond with the court (in Bergen County) as appropriate,” Walmart spokesperson Randy Hargrove told NJ.com.
New Jersey was one of the early states heavily impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. There have been more than 183,327 confirmed cases across the state, including 20,637 positive cases in Bergen County as of Wednesday.