According to a new survey, COVID is causing disputes between employers and employees, and lawsuits are on the rise.
Nearly half (43%) of 283 COVID-19-related lawsuits were filed in June, so it is clear that things are getting more heated. This 43% represents a 30% increase from cases filed in May and a 103% increase from April. Class action suits are also on the rise, with 41 filed since the beginning of the pandemic, nearly half of them in June.
It is important to know what is contributing to conflict and resulting litigation and what you can do to proactively address problems before they blow up.
The most common types of COVID-19 claims involve discrimination or work-from-home/leave claims. Other claims involve retaliation, unsafe working conditions/lack of personal protective equipment, and wage and hour issues.
The study authors say that of the pandemic-related discrimination claims, many “sound like classic workplace disputes wrapped in a COVID-19 context.” For instance, one is a gender discrimination claim where a pregnant woman says she was furloughed because of the pandemic and replaced by a non-pregnant worker.
The work-from home/employee leave claims generally involve workers who say they did not receive time off from work despite a legitimate need for such leave or situations where a work-from-home request was denied.
Class action suits most commonly involve complaints about safety (unsafe work conditions) concerns and wages.
“The safety of your workforce and visitors to your business premises is of critical importance during this time,” say the authors. They suggest, “If you haven’t yet developed and communicated a comprehensive safety plan as your employees return to the workplace, you should make this a priority. The same holds true when it comes to your compensation obligations.”
It is important to know your rights as an employer and what you can and can’t expect of employees. For instance, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, employers can require employees to wear masks or other protective clothing, such as gloves and gowns, during a pandemic. However, it also is important to have policies and procedures that support employee safety in place that are critical for promoting health and safety. Of course, depending on where you live, masks might be required in public places such as stores and healthcare facilities as well.