Experts Are Predicting a Surge in Employment-Related COVID-19 Lawsuits

Employers have endured a parade of challenges since the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic began. The parade, it seems, is far from over.  According to a recent white paper co-sponsored by Liberty Mutual Insurance Company, there is early evidence that employment-related COVID-19 claims are on the rise. The white paper identifies various types of COVID-19-related employment claims that employers can expect to see in the near future.

Denial of Paid Leave. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act’s new paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave requirements are expected to be the source of many COVID-19 cases. Claims may be based on various aspects of the law, including the denial of leave, the calculation of leave, requests for substantiating documentation and retaliation.

Discrimination. COVID-19-related characteristics have become yet another way to separate us from them (COVID positive or negative, real or hoax, facemask or freedom). The polarization of COVID-19
provides fertile ground for claims of discrimination.

Breach of Employment Contracts. Extreme measures are being taken to survive COVID-19’s unprecedented impact on the global economy, including layoffs, furloughs, reduced hours and reduced pay. Employers can expect breach of contract claims if any such remedial measures violate the terms of any employment agreements.

WARN Act. The federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act generally requires employers with 100 or more full-time employees (not counting those on the job for fewer than six months) to provide at least 60 calendar days advance written notice of worksite closings or mass layoffs affecting 50 or more employees. COVID-19’s sudden and devastating impact made this impossible in many cases. Lawsuits are nevertheless expected. They will likely focus on the Act’s “unforeseeable business circumstances” exception to the 60-day notice requirements.

Wage & Hour Violations. Employers may see wage and hour claims from employees working remotely during the pandemic. Claims are likely to include allegations that employers failed to properly monitor, track or pay remote employees for all hours worked and that employers failed to reimburse employees for work-related expenses incurred while working remotely.

These are but a few examples of COVID-19-related claims that employers can expect to see. To reduce the likelihood of claims, employers should proceed cautiously when presented with any COVID-19-related matter. This may include seeking counsel from a licensed professional.

The Human Equation prepares all risk management and insurance content with the professional guidance of Setnor Byer Insurance & Risk.

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