Photo/Illutration The Tokyo District Court (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

A widow and two other bereaved family members filed a lawsuit at the Tokyo District Court against her husband’s employer, arguing the organization could have prevented his and his mother’s deaths.

They said the two died from COVID-19 because the employer failed to take preventive measures in the workplace to protect its employees.

The 64-year-old widow, who lives in Yokohama, and the two others are seeking about 87 million yen ($790,000) in compensation.

They said that the man’s employer had “violated its obligation to ensure the safety of its employees.”

But the employer said that “it is difficult to say that he became infected with the novel coronavirus specifically during his work.”

According to the lawsuit, a group infection broke out around March 24, 2020, at the Defense Technology Foundation in Tokyo, where the 67-year-old man worked.

The man came down with a fever, so he stayed home from work. On April 5, he tested positive for COVID-19. He was taking care of his mother at home, and she also contracted the virus.

His mother died in a hospital on April 19. He died more than a week later, on April 29.

The labor standards inspection office later concluded that he was infected with the virus at his workplace and decided to compensate the bereaved family.

But the family members argue the group infection at the workplace occurred because the employer failed to allow the first employee that had reported a fever to take a PCR test, and that the cluster infection led to the deaths of the man and his mother.

They insist that “the foundation should have ordered the first employee not to come to work to save the lives of other employees.”

But the foundation said the employee who had the fever was diagnosed at a hospital with just a cold and that his body temperature had returned to normal.

It also said that employees were required to take a PCR test if they had a fever of 37.5 degrees or higher lasting at least four days.

“No one could say that the employee was infected, so we didn’t need to stop him from coming to work, either,” it said in a written reply.