O'Reilly Auto Parts store hit with $242K penalty for safety violations - Albuquerque Journal

O'Reilly Auto Parts store hit with $242K penalty for safety violations

An auto parts store in Lovington that state officials said allowed employees to continue to work despite having COVID-19 symptoms is being fined more than $242,000.

According to a New Mexico Environment Department news release issued Tuesday, three employees at the Lovington O'Reilly Auto Parts store ultimately tested positive for the virus, and one – a 46-year-old woman – died.

The state cited the store for violating the Occupational Health and Safety Act by letting the employees keep working despite being symptomatic as well as for “failing to properly screen employees for COVID-19 and not following proper cleaning and disinfection protocols,” the agency wrote.

“This is a violation of state law, public health orders and COVID-Safe Practices, as well as O'Reilly's own internal policies,” the release said.

A man who identified himself as the store manager at the Lovington location declined to comment on the citation. A call to the company's corporate risk management line was not returned.

The Lovington O'Reilly isn't the first New Mexico location of the store to run up against COVID-related safety measures. A store in Santa Fe was cited in the fall for unsafe workplace conditions under the same state law and for violations of the state's public health order. The store didn't admit to the violation but paid $79,200 as part of a settlement of its citations – far less than the $242,827.20 penalty assessed against the Lovington store. A spokeswoman for the Environment Department said the penalty to the Lovington store is the maximum allowed under law.

Penalties collected go into the state's general fund, the release said.

“Providing employees with a false sense of protection from COVID-19 by putting policies in place to comply with state law and then not following them is unconscionable. Had O'Reilly management complied with corporate policies, it's possible this tragic situation could have been avoided,” state Environment Secretary James Kenney said in the release. “Every employee deserves to come home from work safe and healthy, and fortunately many New Mexico businesses are doing all they can to protect their workers.”

O'Reilly has 15 business days from the date of the citations to either pay the penalties or contest them before the New Mexico Occupational Health and Safety Commission, the release said.

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