Hospital Security Guard Barred From Wearing Mask, Suit Says

By Hailey Konnath
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Law360 (April 2, 2020, 11:22 PM EDT) -- A hospital in suburban Chicago is prohibiting its security guards from wearing protective face coverings while at work during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a lawsuit filed by a guard who says he was chastised for wearing a mask last month and has chosen not to return to work since.

Marvell Moody, a public safety officer at Advocate South Suburban Hospital, said he wore a protective facemask while on duty on March 9. The next day, his supervisor allegedly berated him for wearing the mask, telling him it was against hospital policy, Moody said in his complaint lodged in Illinois state court.

Moody is the caregiver for his 65-year-old mother, who has had recent lung surgeries and is at an elevated risk for COVID-19, per his suit. The hospital has been treating patients with the virus, and Moody is worried he'll contract it and pass it along to his mother without the use of a mask, he said. The hospital's mask policy has forced him to stop going to work to protect himself and his entire household, Moody said.

South Suburban has constructively discharged him, Moody claimed.

"[Moody] has not returned to work because [he] fears for his health and well-being," he said in the suit, adding that he also fears for his mother, fiancee and 13-year-old son.

The hospital's policy puts Moody and others "at risk of death or great bodily harm," he said.

He's suing both the hospital and his supervisor, James Thomas. And he's after a $50,000 judgment and attorney fees, according to the complaint.

"As a public safety officer at [South Suburban], plaintiff was at a greater risk of contracting COVID-19 than the general public," he said in his suit.

Moody said when he met with Thomas on March 10, he expressed concerns that the hospital's mask policy was unsafe. He then complained to his coworkers about the policy, he said.

He's alleging retaliation in violation of Illinois law, per the complaint.

Cassie Richardson, a spokesperson for the hospital, told Law360 on Friday that Advocate Health Care is reviewing the complaint.

"We are committed to maintaining the safest environment possible for our patients and team members," she said.

Counsel for Moody declined to comment beyond the complaint.

Thursday's is the second suit over COVID-19 masks filed by Moody's attorneys at The Blake Horowitz Law Firm Ltd. Last week, the firm filed a suit on behalf of a nurse who was allegedly fired by Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago in retaliation for warning colleagues that masks provided by the hospital were inadequate to protect against the virus.

A spokesman for Northwestern Memorial said the hospital was reviewing the complaint, while stressing that the health and well-being of its patients, employees and staff is its highest priority.

Moody is represented by Blake W. Horwitz and Jeffrey C. Grossich of The Blake Horwitz Law Firm Ltd.

Counsel information for the hospital wasn't immediately available Thursday.

The case is Marvell Moody v. Advocate South Suburban Hospital et al., case number 2020L003819, in the Illinois Circuit Court of Cook County.

--Editing by Michael Watanabe.

Update: This story has been updated to include comment from Advocate Health Care.

For a reprint of this article, please contact reprints@law360.com.

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