13 Coronavirus-Related Employment Claims an Employer May Face After Reopening the Workplace
As Florida’s businesses are reopening in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, employers have a hard time keeping up with constantly evolving executive orders and guidelines by the CDC and OSHA on top of existing employment laws.
This uncertain and volatile situation increases the risk of litigation. Employers could expect a wave of lawsuits filed by their employees for a plethora of reasons, ranging from discrimination claims to safety violation claims.
We have outlined the types of claims that employers could expect after reopening in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic:
- Lawsuits stemming from an employee’s refusal to return to work due to fears of exposure;
- Lawsuits filed by workers who claim that they have been exposed to the virus in the workplace;
- Claims filed by employees who were denied the right to continue working from home;
- Discrimination claims based on discriminatory hire, rehire, layoff, or furlough decisions;
- Discrimination claims based on the employer’s failure to accommodate employees with disabilities related to coronavirus;
- Harassment claims based on coronavirus-related harassment from the employer, supervisor, or co-workers;
- Safety violation claims stemming from an employer’s failure to adopt appropriate policies to minimize the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace;
- Claims arising from inadequate notices (or lack thereof) when an employee has been laid off or furloughed in violation of the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act;
- Employee privacy violation claims arising from symptoms monitoring and health screenings;
- Wage and hour claims stemming from wage and hours reductions that were ordered by employers in response to reduction of operating costs or plummeting revenue;
- Leave-related claims arising from denial or miscalculation of sick or family leave;
- Whistleblower retaliation claims filed by employees who raise health or safety concerns and are subject to adverse employment actions; and
- Unfair labor practice claims filed by workers who engage in a protected concerted activity related to coronavirus health and safety concerns.
Employers Prepare for a Wave of Employment-Related Coronavirus Litigation
A recent report by CNBC says that businesses are preparing “for a flood of coronavirus workplace lawsuits.” Concerns about litigation risks loom as business owners are slowly reopening amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Previously, the Donald Trump administration suggested it would provide immunity to businesses, but opponents criticized the idea, warning the government that shielding businesses from lawsuits would provide less incentive for employers to protect their employees and customers from COVID-19 exposure.
According to the report, experts expect a wave of employment-related complaints and litigation as more businesses continue to reopen their doors to customers. Opponents of providing immunity to businesses amid the coronavirus pandemic argue that doing so may cause many workers to refuse to return to work.
After all, many Americans would be reluctant to go back to work due to fear of exposure, especially if they know that they cannot hold their employer responsible for the lack of safety measures in the workplace.
Also, critics argue that providing any sort of immunity to businesses who reopen in the wake of the pandemic would disincentivize employers from taking adequate safety measures to protect their employees and customers. This could trigger new COVID-19 outbreaks that may spread across communities.
The debate about immunity to businesses is still ongoing. Meanwhile, if you are an employer who is trying to reopen in the wake of COVID-19, consult with a West Palm Beach employment law attorney to find out how you can minimize the risk of litigation. Contact Pike & Lustig, LLP, to get a consultation. Call at 561-291-8298.