The COVID-19 pandemic brought about unprecedented situations for the modern business world. The complexity of dealing with the virus means complicated legal claims arising as a result. Both employers and employees face legal challenges as they attempt to manage pandemic problems.
But what are the common claims emerging from COVID-19? What litigation is being pushed forward as a result of pandemic challenges? And how can lawyers and law offices support their clients and employees in this difficult time?
The employer-employee relationship can be a minefield for lawsuits. Add the health risks of a pandemic and the legal hurdles are doubly complicated. Here, we’ll explore the claims coming from the pandemic world as well as client and employee support.
Claims Emerging from COVID-19
2020 has been nothing like previous years. Alongside the recent trends for employment law claims, the pandemic situation has brought about a host of new and different litigation common to law offices.
In each state, the standards of litigation will vary, with clients being subject to different sets of rules. However, the emergent claims arising in the legal world due to COVID-19 are following similar patterns across the country.
Typically, these claims regard:
To qualify for workers’ compensation, employees typically have to prove: (1) that work was the reason for contracting the illness or injury, (2) that the employer put the employee at greater risk for contracting the illness or injury, (3) that a medical doctor agrees with the first two provisions. For those who have contracted COVID-19 due to a work environment like that described, they may be eligible for workers’ compensation.
Various governmental relief programs have come about supporting the rights of workers to receive compensation due to time away from work because of COVID. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act, for example, requires up to 80 hours of paid sick leave and up to 10 additional weeks of paid family and medical leave due to complications caused by the coronavirus.
Claims arising out of COVID-19 come from employers failing to provide the proper compensation after an employee needs to remove themselves from work due to contracting the virus.
Wage and Hour Reduction
Despite COVID-19 safety measures, the same employee compensation laws apply. Difficulties are arising in employee payment processing due to pandemic problems. This often means a reduction in wages and hours that put employees below minimum wage. Meeting safety provisions legally should not translate to a loss in pay.
Workers are entitled to compensation for all time and cost of going through workplace checkpoints and processing. Employers failing to provide compensation for this time are liable to lawsuits.
Layoff and Furlough
The coronavirus has prompted mass layoffs and furloughs across industries. Amid these layoffs, workers targeted unfairly for removal or not given the proper notice are entitled to compensation, depending on state laws.
For example, California’s Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act requires a 60-day notice before the occurrence of mass layoffs. Navigating the effects of COVID-19 necessitates that businesses follow these provisions to the letter. An uptick in claims for improperly managed layoff and furlough policies are emerging as a result.
COVID-19 meant a rapid shift for businesses of all kinds. Employment law requires protection against workplace discrimination, wrongful termination, and family leave without proper pay. Without expert legal counsel and an understanding of all emergent governmental ordinances, employers are liable to legal consequences.
In the flurry of policy changes meant to manage business during the pandemic, employers are likely to overlook certain provisions that could make them liable to a lawsuit. This liability can even affect a law office, so methods of supporting lawyers and their clients should not be overlooked.
How Lawyers can Support their Offices and Clients
Avoiding legal complications within the office comes with managing effective and supportive health and safety accommodations at all times.
Empathetic leadership should be a defining trait for lawyers and their firms as the pandemic is managed. This means listening to and considering the perspectives of other lawyers and clients in order to create proper safety policies. One standard caution recommended for any office is to follow OSHA guidelines and adjust to the needs involved.
In the course of managing pandemic litigation, the same provisions put in place to protect the law office can be translated into help for other businesses. Legal support can be given to prepare businesses for what to do if an employee tests positive for COVID-19. These recommendations include:
- Thorough planning
- Maintaining employee privacy
- Adjusting and preparing physical workspaces
- Requiring a quarantine
- Notifying exposed parties
Health and safety is priority one in managing business needs thorough the pandemic. This can help companies avoid incurring costly legal damages while setting up their offices for comfort and safety. For lawyers and their offices as well, these safety provisions should be adhered to.
Illnesses like COVID-19 can bring about income losses that are difficult to manage. As a result, litigation is emerging as wronged employees seek compensation. Don’t fall to substandard health procedures in your own office that could leave you liable to such lawsuits. Follow clear, legal, and safe proceeds to maintain safety and clarity in the COVID world.