New COVID-19 Employment Regulations Result in Litigation

Laws passed in response to COVID provide special protections to employees who have been infected, exposed, or must quarantine.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), passed by Congress on March 18, provides emergency paid sick leave for workers affected by the coronavirus. Employers must allow an employee to take emergency sick leave if they are required to quarantine, been exposed to the virus, have COVID-19 symptoms, or have tested positive for the virus. 

In addition to the FFCRA, California employers must comply with a handful of new regulations stemming from the state’s response to the pandemic. Employers now face more administrative burden and legal exposure than ever before. 

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As of December 2020, more than 1,300 COVID-19 employment lawsuits have been filed nationwide. The most common case type? Leave conflicts. 

Of the more than 1,300 COVID-19 related employment lawsuits now filed, 351 concern leave conflicts. Here are the most most common employment litigation case types:

  1. Leave Conflict - 351 cases
  2. Employment Discrimination - 289 cases
  3. Employer Retaliation - 281 cases
  4. Wage & Hour - 86 cases

The healthcare industry has been hit particularly hard—288 of the 1,300+ lawsuits filed to date are against healthcare employers. Manufacturing is the second most litigated industry with 118 employment lawsuits nationwide. Retail, government, and the hospitality industry are next on the list. 

California leads the nation in the number of lawsuits filed at 273. 

Unsurprisingly, the industries which still require some or all in-person work, such as healthcare, manufacturing, retail, and hospitality are dealing with the most employment lawsuits. Employees in these industries are also considered “essential workers” by the state of California. 

Small and midsize employers face 66% of all COVID-19 workplace litigation across the country. 

New data shows a scary trend for small employers: a staggering 38% of all COVID-19 related employment lawsuits are filed against employers with 50 or fewer employees. Midsize companies (51 to 500 employees) make up 28% of all claims. In total, small to midsize companies face 66% of all COVID-19 related lawsuits. 

To a certain extent, this is expected. Smaller employers are less likely to have robust compliance systems in place. They may still be adjusting to the challenges and loss of business brought about by the pandemic, leaving less time, money, and resources to devote to complying with new regulations and the resulting exposures. If you are not aware of these new laws and regulations, you certainly are not alone. But, while you may feel that you do not have the resources to catch up with these regulations, odds are that noncompliance and litigation will cost you far more. 

Compliance with the FFCRA, new Cal/OSHA regulations, and other COVID-19 related laws will allow you to avoid costly litigation. And that is true for employers of all sizes. 

The time to get in compliance is now. 

Get an HR evaluation to uncover areas your company can improve and to ensure you are in compliance.

Obtaining a list of new regulations is easy. But actually developing the infrastructure and expertise to manage regulatory risks can be difficult, especially for employers that go it alone. Internal HR often does not have the knowledge or expertise necessary to effectively and efficiently comply with new regulations, such as the FFCRA.

On top of this, when an employment lawsuit does pop up, HR can be left wondering what policies or procedures opened the door to litigation. If they do identify the issue, their solution is often shortsighted, resulting in persistent noncompliance and ongoing litigation. 

Employer’s Guardian HR Evaluation provides a true third-party review of your HR compliance processes, policies, systems, education, documentation, and execution called an HR Evaluation. We have decades of hands-on experience in managing the shifting compliance requirements and litigation trends faced by employers.  We use this knowledge and experience to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your programs. 

Attorneys are the leading source of HR Evaluation referrals at Employer’s Guardian. The final report is detailed, outlines our findings, the applicable laws assessed, and offers recommendations to shore up any exposures.     

If you are interested in an evaluation of your HR risk controls to be sure you are in compliance, contact Employer’s Guardian today!

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