SoCal man alleges he was wrongfully fired for contracting COVID-19

A man is suing a Canoga Park company, alleging he was wrongfully fired in late 2020 for contracting the coronavirus even though he showed his supervisor evidence he likely was no longer contagious.

Cesar Berumen's Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit against Texston Industries Inc. alleges wrongful termination, disability discrimination, failure to prevent discrimination, failure to pay overtime and failure to provide meal and rest breaks.

Berumen seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages in the suit filed Monday.

A representative for Texston Industries, an architectural surfaces company, could not be immediately reached.

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Berumen was hired by Texston in May 2019 and worked in sales administration and support before becoming the company's warehouse manager three months later, the suit states. He began to feel sick last Dec. 7 while at work and went home early, then sent a text message the next day to Ofer Regev, Texston's owner and his supervisor, that the plaintiff's fiancee had tested positive for the coronavirus, the suit states.

Berumen subsequently told Regev that he, too, took a test for the virus and that it also was positive, the suit states. He informed Regev that based upon the requirements of the Los Angeles Country Department of Public Health, he was required to quarantine, according to the suit.

Regev later sent Berumen a text message that he could not return to work until he received two negative COVID-19 tests, the suit states.

Although Berumen understood Regev's desire to keep the plaintiff from infecting any colleagues, the DPH had told Berumen it was possible he could continue to test positive for up to three months after he first tested positive, but that he would only be contagious for 10 ten days after following the onset of his symptoms, the suit states.

Berumen provided Regev the information from the DPH, but on Dec. 22, Regev sent Berumen another text message, directing him to stay home from work until Regev could "figure out what to do," the suit states.

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Regev eventually directed Berumen to return to work on Dec. 29 and told him to come directly to his office, where Regev told him he was being fired, the suit states.

"To say that Mr. Berumen was shocked would be a severe understatement," the suit states. "During Mr. Berumen's more than 18 months of employment, Mr. Berumen had never received any discipline or any performance warnings."

During his employment at Texston, Berumen was not provided rest periods and rarely given the chance to have meal breaks, the suit alleges. He also was not paid for overtime worked, according to the suit.