GRAFTON, N.H. (CBS) – A 70-year-old Grafton, New Hampshire man said he felt pressured to return to work at a state liquor store, despite his age and pre-existing conditions that could put him at increased risk for coronavirus.
“I have COPD. I’ve had a heart attack, so I guess I have a heart condition. I have diabetes,” Bob Walker told WBZ-TV Monday.
Walker has worked part-time at the state liquor store in Lebanon for more than two years. When the pandemic struck, he used a doctor’s note to apply for a medical leave of absence.
That leave of absence expired on May 22nd.
“I called into HR saying hey, my letter’s run out but I still don’t feel it’s safe to go back to work. They said, you can send us a letter but we’re probably won’t even read it because we’re not extending leaves anymore,” Walker said.
The State Employees Association, the local chapter of the Service Employees International Union, used Walker in a YouTube video entitled “Workers in Pain.” SEA President Rich Gulla argues there are hundreds of liquor store employees who are unable to return to work due to issues like Walker’s.
A spokesperson for the New Hampshire Liquor Commission, E.J. Powers, released a statement calling the video “disingenuous.”
“Now with restrictions lifted, we are simply asking those who can return to work to do so. This video does not represent the vast majority of our 1,400 full and part-time employees, who are safely in the workplace serving customers,” Powers wrote.
Employers in New Hampshire are not required to hold open jobs like Walker’s until the pandemic is over. For Walker, that means he may be home for good.
“Right now, I’m not going back to work until there’s a vaccine. Anywhere,” he said.