Woman faces dilemma of risking job or family health amid pandemic

While many have lost their jobs in the COVID-19 pandemic, others are facing the tough decision of jeopardizing their family’s health by continuing to work in close proximity with others.

Sheralyn Scott is one Houston woman faced with the dilemma of protecting her husband who is high risk for COVID-19 or protecting her paycheck by continuing to work closely with employees at the cake factory where she is employed.

“You know I’m taking a chance coming in here,” said Scott.

Scott makes cakes on the production line at Lawler Foods, and she comes home to her husband David who is diabetic and high risk for COVID-19.

She decided to take unpaid family leave from work when COVID cases hit her factory early in the pandemic.

“Everybody was getting sick, so I didn’t feel comfortable because of David’s situation,” said Scott. “He had been sick and had surgery, so I did a family medical leave.”

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When her husband’s surgeries continued into the fall, his doctor wrote a letter asking that she stay home from a work environment that could spread coronavirus to her husband.

“Mrs. Sheralyn Scott needs to remain off work to care for her husband, Mr. David Scott, through January 31, 2021,” wrote Siegfried Schnell, DPM at Memorial Hermann Greater Heights.

But Lawler Foods wrote its own letter, saying family leave had run out, and she had to come back to work or forfeit her job.

“The 12 weeks of FMLA leave you were offered, expired on September 22, 2020,” wrote Jaclyn Trapp, payroll and benefits specialist at Lawler Foods/Dessert Holdings. “To date, you have not returned to work. If you do not contact HR to arrange your return to work or fail to return to work by Monday, November 30, 2020 we will accept failure to return as Voluntary Resignation of employment. You will remain eligible for rehire.”

“Me and David discussed it, so I went back,” said Scott. “So right after Thanksgiving, I went back in. The same week that I was there, a young lady was sick.”

Scott says she had been working on the production line less than three feet away from the woman who got sick.

Lawler Foods confirms the woman tested positive for COVID-19, and seven people who were in close proximity to her were quarantined.

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“We began immediate contact tracing, which identified five employees who were also required to quarantine,” said Caroline Luz, spokeswoman for Lawler. “The remaining staff at the plant who were not in close contact with the affected individual were still informed through written and televised notices posted in all public areas.

Scott immediately returned to isolation with her husband, despite being out of family leave time.

“I should be at work today, but I’m choosing not to go because I’m waiting on my test results,” said Scott.

She told FOX 26 at this point, she’s prepared to forfeit the job to protect her family.

“I can’t jeopardize my family,” said Scott. “My life is important to me. My husband is important to me. My daughter is important to me.”