Former employees are accusing a Mississauga restaurant of failing to disclose a COVID-19 outbreak to employees near the height of the third wave of the pandemic in Peel.
In affidavit statements, two former employees of Nafisa Middle Eastern Cuisine in Streetsville alleged that they were not informed by restaurant management for several days about fellow employees testing positive for COVID-19 in May and that the alleged outbreak No additional security measures were taken during the
Mississauga News asked lawyers representing Omar Nafisa, who co-owns the restaurant, and his brother Adnan, who is also named in the lawsuit, whether their clients dispute the claims contained in the former employees’ affidavits, which questioned whether the establishment has taken steps for the safety of its employees and Public, once they became aware of COVID-19 cases among employees and their family.
“Our clients have no comment,” wrote Henry Coleman, attorney for De Bouset PC, barrister and solicitor.
According to the affidavits, the alleged May outbreak now involves two former employees getting COVID-19. One of the employees, Fadi Sherkawi, alleged that his wife, two young daughters and elderly mother-in-law and father-in-law contracted the virus from him.
The affidavits are part of a legal action initiated by one of Nafisa’s co-owners, Tariq Hajj Ibrahim, who is seeking $3 million in damages and in a statement of claim alleging that he had been taken over by co-owner Omar Nafisa. The restaurant has been wrongly closed from operation. .
The trial has not been tried in court.
In an interview with Mississauga News, restaurant co-owner Haj Ibrahim claimed he was not aware of COVID-19 cases at the restaurant until several days after the alleged outbreak began. The employee was not informed on 15 May.
When he learned of the alleged outbreak and the apparent lack of action to address it, Hajj Ibrahim told the news that he was “shocked and horrified.”
“And I even lost my temper, to be honest,” he said. “How do you put the interests of business on top of public health? What if someone in the public got infected?”
Peel Public Health (PPH) defines a workplace outbreak as two or more laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases that have an “epidemiological link”, such as within a two-week period, from close work. Doing.
timely workplace orders The alleged outbreak directed businesses to exclude employees who had been diagnosed with COVID-19, as well as close contact, meaning those who interacted with an infected person within two meters for a total of 15 minutes. of, about two days before their symptoms appeared.
Former server Kenana Saeed said in her affidavit that she informed Adnan Nafisa on or around May 3 that she was tired and had a cough. According to his statement, it is alleged that Adnan Nafisa, who is described as a supervisor at the restaurant, asked Saeed to get tested for COVID-19. She did on May 4, and the results came back positive two days later.
She alleged that he told Adnan Nafisa about the positive results and he told her to “stay home to recover and don’t come to the restaurant,” according to her sworn statement.
Saeed never returned to Nafisa’s meal after May 3.
According to Sherkawi’s affidavit, she heard about Saeed’s COVID-19 infection from another employee around May 5 and reportedly asked Adnan Nafisa why he did not warn the restaurant staff or the public.
Sherkawi alleged in his affidavit that Adnan Nafisa said he “hid Kenana’s COVID-19 diagnosis because he wanted us to keep working and did not want to negatively affect restaurant operations.”
Sherkawi, who was a cook at the restaurant, said he had turned symptomatic for COVID-19 on May 7 and was confirmed positive two days later. According to his statement, Sherkawi’s wife, two daughters, mother-in-law and father-in-law each contracted COVID-19, they believe as a result of him being infected with the virus at the restaurant.
At the time of the alleged outbreak, Peel Health was required to “immediately notify” businesses, as well as Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) and the Ministry of Labor, if two or more employees tested positive for COVID-19 within 14 years. tested positive. Day.
Spokesperson Ashley Hawkins said Peel Health could not disclose whether a specific business had alerted them to COVID-19 cases.
WSIB and representatives of the ministry or labor said the agencies have not received any COVID-19-related reports from Nafisa Cuisine, or its parent company, Koshi Bashi Inc.
For a business, failure to comply with Peel Health’s orders can mean a fine of up to $5,000 per day for alleged non-compliance.
Brittany Taylor, a partner and employment attorney with Rudner Law, said employers have a legal obligation to “take all reasonable steps” to ensure the safety of employees, including planning for an employee to get COVID-19. is included.
She said the situation becomes more challenging when there is a COVID-19 case at work and that an employer’s plan includes sending a staff member home to isolate and collect information on how to interact with them. Should be.
“Any employee who interacted with a worker who has tested positive, or who is experiencing symptoms, usually needs to be notified,” she said.
Former Nafisa Cuisine chef Samar Alsaid said in his affidavit that the staff was informed around May 10 that other employees of the restaurant had tested positive for COVID-19.
In his affidavit, Alsaid also said that “no special measures were taken with respect to COVID-19 in the restaurant and the restaurant remained open to the public during the outbreak”.
Nafisa cuisine was in the news in August as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited the restaurant during the federal election campaign and pledged to fund $1 billion For the provinces that apply the Vaccine Passport Rules.
Matteo Rossi, spokesman for the Liberal Party of Canada, wrote in an email that the party was not aware of the allegations against the restaurant.
“Our campaign has visited a variety of venues for public events and announcements on a daily basis throughout the election,” he wrote, adding that the party has been “to help keep people safe at such events during the strictest COVID-19 pandemic.” Implemented and followed 19 protocols.”
The alleged Nafisa cuisine cases came to light when Ontario had stay-at-home orders And Peele was experiencing some of its highest COVID-19 infections since the pandemic began.
No indoor or outdoor dining was allowed at Peel Food and Beverage establishments in May 2021 by provincial order.
Another court proceeding is to be held in October in the case involving Haj Ibrahim and Umar and Adnan Nafisa.
Story Behind the Story: In a lawsuit filed between owners of Streetsville restaurants, former employees claimed in affidavits that they were not told about a COVID-19 infection among employees. We wanted to look at disclosure responsibilities and requirements in the workplace.