The 2019 novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic has caused a major disruption for individuals, countries, and economies all around the world. While the lockdown in the United States forced many businesses to close for the time being to prevent the infection from spreading, many essential workers were still out there performing their duties at the height of the initial outbreak. Concerns over worker safety have continued to rise as the number of infections grows into the year, and with it, so are the number of Coronavirus lawsuit cases over employment & personal concerns.
Class-action lawsuits have been brought up by consumers looking to get even with companies that were price-gouging on in-demand products such as hand sanitizer, medical masks, and toilet paper. Employment-based class-action lawsuits are also on the rise as many American workers have been forced to face unsafe working conditions, have been retaliated against for speaking out, or even laid off unjustly in the wake of the pandemic. There have been many Covid-19 lawyers and attorneys filing lawsuits due to these unsafe work conditions.
Working Through the Pandemic
As millions of Americans file for unemployment in the coming months, businesses across the country continue to break employer laws during the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. The spread of the virus has far outpaced the rate at which businesses have been able to adapt to making the necessary changes to keep employees safe. Uncertainties remain for many employees about the state of their right to work from home or how much personal protective gear has to be worn during work hours. Class action lawsuits against American companies have been brought forth in a number of states. Many of these cases claiming that employees were forced to work in unsafe conditions (with lack of proper distancing, work at home, and sanitation measures), employees were unjustly denied pay, and that employers used the pandemic situation as an opportunity to discriminately fire employees.
Unsafe Working Conditions During Covid-19
Through the normal performance of their jobs, healthcare workers, prison guards, grocery store employees and many others have been exposed to the hazard that the Coronavirus presents. Employees across the country are seeking compensation for being exposed to hazardous materials without being provided with the proper protective equipment by their employers. In addition to the lack of protective gear, places of work are also being accused of failing to implement proper social distancing measures, disallowing employees to telecommute in applicable situations, and providing faulty protective equipment to workers. As more time goes on, we expect there to be a huge rush of employment-based class action suits being brought forward.
Employee Layoffs During the Pandemic
To comply with the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, employers are required to give employees advanced notice before large waves of layoffs occur. In the wake of the pandemic, WARN act requirements have been waived in a few states, but only temporarily. Companies are also being accused of failing to pay out on owed final wages, vacation, and sick time benefits for employees that have been laid off. Each of these situations creates an opportunity for employees to file a class-action suit to recover compensation from the company in question. This is a particularly large issue with government entities currently as thousands of nonessential government-employed workers are losing their jobs without any compensation.
Evictions & Changes to Landlord Laws During Covid-19
Many cities, states, and lending companies have agreed to stop evictions, utility shutoffs, and late rent fees temporarily to ease the suffering of many Americans during the pandemic crisis. Thousands of tenants have used this situation to refuse to pay their rent, in many situations even when they are capable because they understand that the law prevents them from being evicted during the pandemic. On the other hand, tenants who have legitimately lost their means of income because of Covid-19 are also being kicked out for their place due to an inability to pay. This has created an opportunity for those who have been wronged on both sides to sue to receive compensation for the injustices they’ve suffered.
Employee Protections Provided by the Family First Coronavirus Response Act
On March 18, 2020, the Family First Coronavirus Response Act was passed to provide guaranteed leave for sickness, medical, or family reasons related to Covid-19 for those working with companies that have 500 or fewer employees. These protections are active until December 31, 2020, and include:
- Up to 2 weeks (80 hours) of paid sick leave at the regular rate of pay if an employee is unable to work because they are in quarantine, are experiencing Covid-19 symptoms, or are seeking medical diagnosis related to possible Covid-19 infection.
- Up to 2 weeks (80 hours) of paid sick leave at 2/3 the regular rate of pay due to an inability to work because the employee is spending time taking care of an individual quarantined with Covid-19 symptoms or take care of a child that is unable to attend school due to Covid-19 related reasons.
- Up to 10 weeks of additional paid family or medical leave at 2/3 the regular rate of pay for workers who have been employed for at least 30 days in order to care for a child whose school or main care provider is closed due to Covid-19 related reasons.
Reasons that qualify an employee for paid sick leave related to Covid-19:
- The employee is subject to quarantine by local, state, or federal authorities for Covid-19
- The employee has been advised to self-quarantine by a healthcare provider because of Covid-19 related symptoms.
- The employee has exhibited Covid-19 related symptoms and is in the process of seeking a medical diagnosis.
- The employee is caring for an individual who has been placed under quarantine.
- The employee is caring for a child whose educational facility or the main place of care has been closed due to Covid-19 reasons.
- The employee is experiencing another situation that is considered to be substantially similar to the aforementioned circumstances by the Secretary of Health and Human Services.
Any paid sick leave that’s accrued through these provisions is not eligible for rollover from one year to the next and employees are not entitled to reimbursement for this type of paid sick leave if they leave or lose their job. It’s important to note that not all employers with less than 50 employees are subject to these provisions. For example, healthcare providers and emergency responders have a special set of rules that apply specifically to their sick leave provisions.
Contact an Experienced Covid-19 Lawyer Today
If you or your loved one contracted Covid-19 because of the negligent actions of another party, then you may be able to recover significant compensation from those responsible to cover things such as medical costs, physical & psychological anguish, punitive damages, lost wage & earning capacity, loss of affection, and property damage. Hospitals, supermarkets, senior care facilities, and prisons around the country failed to take the precautions necessary for protecting the vulnerable Americans who they served. The lack of proper social distancing measures, safety initiatives, and employee testing resulted in thousands losing their lives because of the negligent inaction of these businesses.