Lawsuit: Teacher died of COVID-19 after being forced to return work despite underlying conditions

A wrongful death suit was filed against the Mexican American Opportunity Foundation on behalf of the minor children of a 40-year-old teacher whose 2020 death from the coronavirus was allegedly caused by the organization's denial of accommodations to her despite her underlying health conditions.

The 15-year-old son and 17-year-old daughter of the late Magdalena Carrasco of East Los Angeles are represented in the complaint by Carrasco's sister, Jennifer Lopez, who is also their aunt and is serving as their guardian. The suit also alleges failure to engage in the good-faith interactive process and failure to accommodate a disability.

The Los Angeles Superior Court suit filed Tuesday seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages. A representative for the Montebello-based MAOF did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

MAOF provides childcare and development services to children. Its website states the organization's mission is to "provide for the socio-economic betterment of the greater Latino community of California, while preserving the pride, values and heritage of the Mexican-American culture."

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MAOF employed Carrasco for many years, first as a teacher's assistant and later as a teacher at MAOF's Telegraph Center in East Los Angeles, which provides infant and toddler care, the suit states. She taught children between the ages of 3 and 5 years old in MAOF's Head Start program, according to the suit.

MAOF closed for a time during the pandemic, then reopened in September 2020 after the organization held an online meeting concerning teachers, staff, supervisors and administrators, the suit states.

"Some of the people in attendance were concerned that it was too soon and too risky to reopen MAOF at that time," the suit states.

Carrasco was one of those who expressed concern, noting that the virus was still spreading, and she also worried about her underlying health condition and the increased risks she faced from the virus if she returned to teaching at the school, according to the suit.

MAOF's supervisors and administrators knew Carrasco had diabetes, that she had lost vision in one eye and was seeking medical treatment for her other eye, the suit states. However, MAOF did not try to find a reasonable accommodation for her condition by providing her with such options as more personal protective equipment, increased social distancing, the ability to work remotely or the grant of a leave of absence, the suit states.

"Instead, MAOF had Ms. Carrasco return to work, where she was exposed to COVID-19," the suit states.

Several other teachers did work from home during that time, providing virtual learning to the students whose parents chose to keep them home, the suit states.

MAOF closed two classrooms from September to December 2020 due to exposure to COVID-19, but the organization did not shut down the entire facility, the suit states.

Carrasco contracted COVID-19 while working at MAOF in November or December 2020, became ill and died Dec. 3, 2020, the suit states.

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