As a business you have a ton to manage. You try your best to do the right thing by your employees and customers however; due to the litigious society we live in COVID-19 has provided inherent risks that could result in placing you in a court room rather than your business.

So what types of scenarios could result in a COVID-19 litigation situation?

  • Failure to provide a safe working environment. Common allegations include failure to provide workers with adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) and failure to implement customer or visitor policies (such as required temperature checks or masks) to protect employees.
  • Discrimination claims. Age and disability discrimination – for instance, a 70-year-old plaintiff in New Jersey state court alleged that he was denied a work-from-home accommodation that he requested due to his medical condition and age, which he asserted presented additional risk of complications from COVID-19. Similar allegations-that a plaintiff was forced out of a job because of his age due to the employer’s concern about exposing an older worker to COVID-19.
  • Leave claims. Numerous lawsuits have been filed alleging that employees have been unlawfully denied sick leave or family and medical leave for reasons related to COVID-19 under the Family Medical Leave Act, the Families First COVID-19 Response Act, state and local paid leave laws, and employer sick-leave policies.
  • Retaliation and whistle blower claims. These lawsuits assert that an employee was terminated for complaining about workplace safety or working conditions (including complaints about the failure to provide appropriate PPE or the failure to comply with applicable COVID-19 safety protocols) or for exercising leave rights related to COVID-19. Some of these cases have also been couched in terms of state-law claims for wrongful termination against public policy.
  • Wage-and-hour claims. For example, cases disputing compensation practices related to sanitation and hygiene protocols, expanded schedules, and on-call time have been filed in significant numbers across the country. In addition, a number of cases asserting an employer’s failure to pay contractually-agreed commissions or fees have been filed. Other categories of claims are reasonably foreseeable, as well. For example, wage-and-hour claims motivated by changes in working schedules or venues (e.g., work-from-home situations).

Interested in learning how to mitigate these risks? – reach out to me!

(Source: Matthew Gagnon)

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