Lidl, a German grocery company which recently acquired Best Market, is coming under fire for its response to COVID-19.

A group of workers represented by LatinoJustice PRLDEF, a legal advocacy organization, filed a complaint with the New York State Attorney General this week asking for an investigation into the company’s compliance with labor protocols mandated for essential businesses.

In late April, LatinoJustice PRLDEF complained to the company about the experiences of several employees. One of them, Martha Veronica Guerra, is a bakery manager at a Lidl-owned store in Astoria, Queens. LatinoJustice PRLDEF says the company kept her in the dark about a coworker who tested positive for the virus and with whom she had been in close contact. After she complained to management, the organization says, Guerra took fourteen days off to quarantine. The worker claimed that human resources said the leave would be unpaid.

With the crisis gripping the region, Lidl employees are also demanding consistent cleaning, full information on and access to paid leave, and hazard pay.

Listen to George Joseph’s report on WNYC:

Marian Meszaros works in the meat department at a Lidl-owned store in Franklin Square, Long Island. She says workers deserve hazard pay for working through this crisis.

“I feel like they really don’t care, like they were just using me as a body back there to get the work out to make money,” said the sixty-three year old employee.

On April 30th, LatinoJustice PRLDEF along with two labor groups, sent the company a letter citing their concerns. The advocacy organization says the company did not respond to their demands. So the organization filed a formal complaint with the attorney general on Tuesday.

“We filed with the New York state attorney general’s office to investigate the matter to make sure that these workers are going to stay safe, and also the general public that’s entering these stores,” said Nathalia Varela, associate counsel with the group.

Lidl declined an interview request, but in several emails it strongly disputed the workers’ claims as outlined by LatinoJustice PRLDEF in their April 30th letter.

“We take our responsibility to protect our team members seriously and are taking significant steps to provide a safe environment for our team and our customers,” the company said, adding that it has given paid leave to numerous employees and has upheld high cleaning standards.

The grocer also clarified that whenever an employee tests positive for COVID-19, it immediately places the person on paid leave for 14 days, and gives paid leave to all co-workers who may have had close contact with that person. In the case of Guerra, the Astoria employee, company spokesman William Harwood said that their investigation found she did not have “close contact” with the employee who tested positive.

“We also have a relaxed attendance policy that allows employees who are uncomfortable coming to work during the public health emergency to stay home without penalty,” he said. “When this individual raised her concerns with us, we reiterated this policy and she elected to utilize it.”

The company did not respond to questions about the workers’ demands for hazard pay.

A recent survey found that many grocery store workers have similar complaints across the country. According to The Shift Project, a service-sector research initiative from the University of California Berkeley and San Francisco, about one in three grocery store or food market employees report their companies have not instituted new workplace cleaning procedures in light of the crisis. Workers in other service industries reported new cleaning procedures even less often, and across the board many reported a lack of available masks.

Daniel Schneider, a UC Berkeley sociologist who worked on the survey, said companies need to take cleaning and protective gear seriously. “This is a moment where workers’ occupational health and safety and the public’s health and safety could not be more clearly linked,” he said.

Meszaros, the Lidl worker in Long Island, says she’s concerned about bringing the virus home. But she has not quit because she needs a paycheck to care for her 86-year-old mother.

“I’m living with my mother because we take care of each other, and I don’t wanna lose her for something like this,” she said.

In an email, the New York State Attorney General’s Office confirmed it had received the workers’ complaint, but said it could not comment further as the matter is ongoing.