Employers Are Facing Take-Home Liability Claims in the COVID-19 Era
As businesses continue to reopen following the shutdown prompted by the coronavirus pandemic, concerns are growing over the so-called take-home liability claims.
If you are an employer whose workers are returning to the workplace following the COVID-19 pandemic, you should be aware of take-home liability. In the COVID-19 era, all business owners and customers alike seem to be concerned about the risk of spreading the virus.
In fact, some companies, including Amazon, have already been sued for allegedly spreading coronavirus. But your employees – and their family members, to be more specific – present a more serious liability risk for your business, as visitors and customers would have a hard time proving that they were exposed to the disease on your property, not somewhere else.
Employer’s Liability for COVID-19 in the Workplace
As employees spend a large portion of their week in the workplace, they are more likely than customers to sue a business for COVID-19 exposure at work. However, the good news for employers is that their workers’ compensation insurance would bar any injury or illness-related lawsuits filed by employees.
Typically, employees cannot sue their employer for work-related injuries and illnesses, though there may be exceptions to the general rule. However, your employees and customers are not the only groups of people who can sue you for exposing them to coronavirus.
In the COVID-19 era, concerns are growing over take-home liability claims, or secondary exposure claims. A take-home claim can be filed by your employee’s family members who became infected with coronavirus through the worker, who, in turn, was exposed to COVID-19 in the workplace.
What is a Take-Home Liability Claim?
As evident from lawsuits stemming from asbestos exposure, courts have ruled that employers owe a duty of care not only to their workers but also the employees’ family, especially if it was reasonably foreseeable that the employer’s workers might expose members of their household.
However, winning a take-home liability claim would be difficult. Your employee’s family member would have to establish the following elements:
- The employee was exposed to coronavirus at work;
- The worker’s family member became infected at home through that employee;
- The employer’s precautionary measures to prevent COVID-19 exposure in the workplace were inadequate and insufficient;
- There were no other potential sources of exposure; and
- The family member’s coronavirus infection was the result of his or her contact with the worker.
If you are facing a take-home liability claim after reopening your business, you may be able to employ several defenses, including:
- The family member was exposed to coronavirus via another source; and
- The employer has taken all reasonable precautions to protect its workers from COVID-19 risks.
Since your employee’s family members have a higher chance of successfully suing your business for COVID-19 exposure, you need to consult with a skilled West Palm Beach employment law attorney if a take-home liability claim has been filed. Also, talk to our attorneys at Pike & Lustig, LLP, about the reasonable precautions that you need to take as an employer to protect your employees from coronavirus at work. Call at 561-291-8298 to receive a consultation.