COVID-19 continues to cause a negative impact on the economy. Businesses struggle to remain open and many people are concerned about their health and safety. With many businesses, and now schools, reopening or beginning to reopen, people face a challenging choice between income and safety.
The search for an effective vaccine is underway, and the results seem promising. People still need to remain vigilant in protecting themselves and others from potentially spreading the virus.
Though a safe work environment is a key to the success of the economy and to people’s health, it appears some companies are not following proper guidelines. This has led to an uptick in workplace lawsuits.
Workplace Lawsuits on The Rise
Fisher and Phillips, a law firm representing employers in labor and employment matters, offers an interactive COVID-19 Employment Litigation Tracker which shows there are more than 670 pending complaints.
In MA alone, there were over 900 COVID relates complaints. Many of the complaints were due to failure to allow for enough social distancing and a lack of cleaning and disinfection. While other complaints were for employers allegedly requiring those with COVID-19 symptoms to come into work.
Recently, Harrah’s, MGM Grand and Bellagio casinos were sued by a group of employees for not informing them when co-workers tested positive and did not provide adequate contact-trace before allowing colleagues of infected employees to return to the job.
The top coronavirus-related workplace issues that may lead to litigation seem to revolve around:
- Paid sick leave or paid family leave wasn’t paid as mandated under the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act
- Whistleblower claims. Many states have laws designed to protect people who report information about suspected illegal, wasteful, or unethical activity.
- Safety concerns and wage and hour issues that don’t meet the OSHA General Duty Clause
- Wrongful death
Clearly lawsuits are on the rise. This will be an ongoing issue many businesses will need to learn to mitigate.
How Can Employers Protect Themselves?
If you have concerns or are being sued, your first step should be to consult with your attorney.
Make sure you have a plan in place to resolve any COVID health issues that may arise. The CDC provides guidance on how to maintain healthy business operations:
Here are some steps to consider:
- Identify a workplace coordinator who will be responsible for COVID-19 issues
- Implement flexible sick leave and supportive policies and practices
- Protect employees at higher risk for severe illness through supportive policies and practices.
- Communicate supportive workplace policies clearly, frequently, and via multiple methods.
- Assess your essential functions and the reliance that others and the community have on your services or products.
- Determine how you will operate if absenteeism spikes
- Establish policies and practices for social distancing.
- Document any wage changes due to reduced hours, furloughs, or layoffs
- Comply with employee confidentiality when/if providing temperature screening or other health tests
We’re Here to Help
There is still much we do not know about this virus. Implementing a plan now can provide a safer work environment and possibly help reduce the chance of a business lawsuit.
In these challenging times, the risk of exposure is more prevalent than ever. We offer two Safety Service Options:
COVID-19 CONSULTING BUNDLE – Written directive/policy on requirements which can be either a corporate policy or a site-specific policy.
COVID-19 TRAINING (INFECTION CONTROL WEBINAR) – We offer Open Enrollment Classes and Private Company Sponsored Classes made available at your convenience.
COVID19 TESTING – We now offer COVID-19 Testing Services For Colleges, Universities, Private Companies, And Public Agencies
If you have concerns about your workforce and coronavirus, please contact us today to learn about steps you can take to protect yourself, your family, and your employees.