ILMA Compoundings - September 2020 - 32

COUNSEL COMPOUND

The Explosion in
COVID-19 Lawsuits
By Jeff Leiter

T

his month's column is another
follow-on to my presentation
during ILMA's first LubeTrends
virtual Town Hall on HR considerations surrounding the COVID-19
pandemic. I would like to focus this
month on the explosion of COVID19 workplace lawsuits filed against
employers. A handful of law firms
are tracking this litigation, and I have
reviewed their data. As I write this
column, over 2,000 COVID-19-related cases have been filed across the
country, with a little over 300 lawsuits
involving workplace claims. Approximately 45% of them commenced in
June. There are limitations in tracking
lawsuits, so view the tracking information as comprehensive.
In looking at the types of cases,
discrimination and work-from-home
or leave claims predominate the
lawsuits. Retaliation cases, unsafe
working conditions or lack of personal
protective equipment complaints, and
wage and hour claims followed in
descending order of number of cases.
The pandemic also has spawned more
than 40 class-action lawsuits focused
primarily on unsafe working conditions
and wage and hour violations. It is not
surprising that the states with the most
pandemic-related cases are the states
with the most employment-related
lawsuits - California, Florida, New
Jersey, New York and Texas.
Although a number of these lawsuits
against employers for employee exposure to COVID-19 seek monetary

32

SEPTEMBER 2020

| COMPOUNDINGS | ILMA.ORG

damages relating to workplace-contracted illness, these cases should be
barred by the applicable state's workers'
compensation statute if COVID-19
is considered an occupational injury
or illness. However, plaintiffs' lawyers
are advancing a variety of creative
approaches and arguments to circumvent the usual workers' compensation
bar on such claims and to keep their
clients' suits in court.
What are some of my takeaways
from this lawsuit data? While employers have been focused on the safety
of their employees and visitors to
their facilities, employees and former
employees seem to be aware of their
rights. During the ILMA virtual Town

Hall, I reminded attendees that implementing typical best practices should
not be ignored in these unprecedented
times, but employers also need to continue to train their managers on their
responsibilities and employees' rights,
especially when it comes to disciplining
or terminating employees. I emphasized the need for consistent treatment
of workers and proper documentation
of personnel actions.
At the same time, I pointed out that
the coronavirus pandemic has created
new compliance challenges with the
implementation of emergency paid
leave and emergency family leave
requirements at the federal and state
levels. It appears that some of the


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ILMA Compoundings - September 2020

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ILMA Compoundings - September 2020 - Cover1
ILMA Compoundings - September 2020 - Cover2
ILMA Compoundings - September 2020 - 1
ILMA Compoundings - September 2020 - 2
ILMA Compoundings - September 2020 - 3
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ILMA Compoundings - September 2020 - 5
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ILMA Compoundings - September 2020 - 40
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