The issue of COVID litigation has been on our
minds for some time and it appears that this is now coming to fruition.
The lawsuits have already begun, and by many accounts, they are just the
initial waves of what may be a tsunami. There are six main categories of
these coronavirus lawsuits:
1. Workplace and Employment. Nonessential
businesses can face personal injury if they required workers to come in and
those workers got sick. Essential businesses can face liability if they fail to
provide proper protection for employees. Any company can be sued for firing
employees for complaining about inadequate safeguards.
2.Class Action Lawsuits. These are when a large
number of plaintiffs band together to file a lawsuit against a company that has
committed fraud or caused damage. Many of these have been filed already
including 8,000 individuals against the state of Alaska.
3. Lawsuits Against Educational Institutions. These
are being filed against schools who promised to provide a service, and failed
to provide proper refunds.
4.Insurance Lawsuits. Companies are contending
that their insurers wrongfully denied them coverage for pandemic losses.
5. Voting Rights lawsuits. Lawsuits have been filed
already in 14 states against voting procedures deemed too restrictive.
6. Lawsuits Against Health
Care Companies. These are being filed against assisted-living facilities and
nursing homes who failed to take adequate steps to protect patients and staff.
To date, there have been over 283 workplace
lawsuits filed. New Jersey, is the state with the third-highest number of suits
filed, at 31. One thing is for sure: these lawsuits will not change our
reliance on the courts to resolve employment disputes in the age of COVID-19.
In fact, we may be looking to the courts like never before to answer questions
about who has done wrong, and about who owes what to whom.
The first COVID-19 related lawsuits seen thus far
include a class action by McDonald’s
workers and a
wrongful death action filed by a Safeway
employee’s family. Many other lawsuits have been filed, both small and large,
and we are starting to see employers require employees to sign waivers in order
to return to work, and other businesses and events requiring individuals to
sign waivers before entering. The legality of such will certainly be
determined by the courts.
The question of whether
a business is liable if their employees or customers catch COVID-19 has become
a critical issue as many states reopen retail, foodservice, and other
businesses. To help protect yourself against these claims, you need to train
your managers to understand their responsibilities and employee rights. Keep
your managers up to date on new leave law requirements. Further, develop and
communicate comprehensive safety plan for employees who return to the
workplace. Finally anticipate the various wage and hour responsibilities that
you may face as the pandemic unfolds.