She could wear her protective mask while seeing her patients. Many were, after all, elderly, with respiratory problems, susceptible to getting severely sick from the novel coronavirus. And so Laura Moreno, a nurse in Oklahoma City, wanted to protect them — as well as herself and her 12-year-old daughter, who has asthma and a thyroid condition.

She could not, however, wear her mask in the hallways, or the cafeteria or any of the hospital’s common areas, because her supervisors told her it would scare patients. “I was told if I wanted to wear a mask, I would not be working there,” she said. “So I said I’m not willing to put my life at risk, and my contract was terminated.”

Since the viral pandemic started ravaging the country in recent weeks, workers, unions and attorneys are seeing a dramatic rise in cases they say illustrate a wave of bad employer behavior, forcing workers into conditions they fear are unsafe, withholding protective equipment and retaliating against those who speak up or walk out.

Moreno’s case was one of many that her attorney, Rachel Bussett, and her colleagues at the National Employment Lawyers Association have been inundated with as workers grow increasingly fearful of retribution from, as Bussett said, “employers who value the economy over people.”

A handful of workers at a McDonald’s outside San Francisco walked off the job to protest the lack of safety measures. So did about 50 workers at a Perdue chicken plant in Georgia, as well as workers at Instacart and Amazon, while the companies said they were taking steps to ensure their employees’ safety and well-being. (Amazon’s chief executive, Jeff Bezos, owns The Washington Post.)