The vast economic and sociological damage rendered by the Covid-19 pandemic has had far reaching implications that have now begun to heavily involve the legal system. By the final months of 2020 thousands of lawsuits had been filed as a result of alleged damages wrought by the effects of the virus and the inability of companies to work effectively. According to statistics that have been collected regarding Covid related lawsuits, many of these suits have been filed against cruise lines and nursing homes. Another large portion of plaintiffs of these suits tend to be restaurants, bars, and other businesses who have filed suits against insurance carriers after state and local governments ordered shutdowns in an attempt to quell the spread of the virus. Additionally, there have been hundreds of disability, and sick leave claims that have resulted from employees who have been afflicted with the virus or have had to take care of someone who was sick with the virus.
According to a recent article in USA Today, there have been well over 1000 workplace related claims that have been filed in 2020 as a direct result of the pandemic. The vast majority of these claims concern terminations that plaintiffs allege were a result of age or racial discrimination. Another significant portion of these claims were a result of alleged violations of workplace safety, with employees claiming that businesses had failed to provide the necessary personal protective equipment (ppe) or hygiene products, or didn’t comply with sanitizing protocols, temperature checks or enforcement of mask wearing by customers. Notably, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, (OSHA) issued Covid related citations that were the result of 295 inspections. These inspections and the resulting citations lead to proposed penalties that totaled $3.8 million.
It is abundantly clear that the pandemic has caused a whole swath of problems for employers as it pertains to workplace conditions and employee safety. Some of the issues that have arose may be addressed with solutions that are as simple as increased provision of ppe for employees or increased enforcement of safety protocols as they pertain to customers in a business. However, other issues such as a paid leave, disability and potential legal claims require increased attention and focus on ensuring that companies are in compliance with federal and state laws and directives on these matters. Strict compliance with federal and state laws is essential to ensuring smooth and efficient management and operation of the workplace.
If you or your H.R. department have any questions concerning the current climate of Covid-19 and the effects that this has had on workplace issues, please do not hesitate to call us at 516-888-1208 or email Cynthia Augello at [email protected]
Thank you to Joel Thomas, JD for his assistance with this post.