2020 noticed 1K office coronavirus fits; 2021 will see extra, says Seyfarth

Diving letter:

  • In 2020, the coronavirus triggered at least 1,005 lawsuits in the workplace, according to Seyfarth Shaw LLPs Jan. 5 Process report on class action lawsuits in the workplace. The company expects “even more” pandemic lawsuits in 2021 when companies resume business.
  • Resignations have been the number one topic of COVID-19 litigation in the workplace. Such allegations were made more than three times as often as the next most common allegation. Broken down by industry, healthcare employers had the highest number of litigation disputes, followed by business services (128) and manufacturing (99).

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Katie Clarey / HR Dive, data from Seyfarth Shaw LLP

  • “We anticipate that the number of class action lawsuits in the workplace will continue to increase in several key areas such as discrimination and bias in the workplace, pay and hour, and health and safety,” Seyfarth said in his report. “Employers can find these workplace class action lawsuits expand and change as companies resume operations in 2021 amid COVID-19, especially if the courts bring out a patchwork quilt of decisions.”

Dive Insight:

Fisher Phillips law firm in July published results that 283 COVID-19 lawsuits had been filed in the workplace, with filings showing an “exponential” increase in June. It appears that the trend is continuing, with filings adding up significantly over the last half of 2020.

Compliance with state and federal mandates became a key issue in employers’ response to the coronavirus. The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission stressed anti-discrimination laws When the first wave of the virus set in in March, employers were urged to implement measures to combat pandemics with equal hands. When the agency published guidelines for employers to measure the body temperature of applicants, for example, it was decided that employers must do this for “all incoming workers in the same type of work” regardless of whether the person is disabled.

Employers also had to adapt to new and updated laws in the wake of the pandemic. The passage of the Family First Coronavirus Response Act expanded the Family and Medical Leave Act to establish a paid sick leave obligation for employees. This has led to a flurry of lawsuits with claims from illegal dismissals to wrongly denied vacation.

As employers enter the new year, pandemic compliance is likely to remain an important area. The Biden government is likely to put in place stricter security measures. Sources previously said HR Dive. Already the elected president said he will ask the health and safety authority to reconsider their decision to skip emergency coronavirus standards. And since the vaccine gives hope of a return to some sort of normalcy, employers must decide how to deal with employees who go without a vaccine. In addition, they need to steer a transition away from teleworking – something that could spark discrimination claims.

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