The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on workplaces across the country. Non-essential businesses were shuttered for weeks or months, workplace policies changed and many employers and employees alike have been affected somehow.
California employment lawsuits were prevalent enough even in better times, but the pandemic is what we call a “workplace agitator.” It’s something that impacts a wide swath of people in a negative way, contributing to the kind of economic and personal stress that can heighten underlying workplace tensions.
It’s no surprise then that many Los Angeles employment attorneys are noting an uptick in employment-related claims, especially because there may be newly-acquired legal rights or requirements that employers may potentially violate.
Some of the recent coronavirus-related employment lawsuits reported on across the country have included:
Contract breach. In one case out of Southern California, a worker’s contract guaranteed one year of employment with an annual salary of a quarter million dollars – unless he was fired without cause. Then COVID-19 hit. The employer hit a rocky financial patch. Plaintiff was fired after rejecting the company’s offer of a severance payment.
Retaliation. A company refused a Southern California worker’s request to take a medical leave of absence – one originally backed by a workers’ compensation physician – and later fired the worker after he returned and complained about the lack of health safety measures.
In other cases across the country, workers have alleged interference in FMLA claims, age and disability discrimination, WARN Act violations, wage and hour disputes, workplace safety disputes, worker misclassification, workers’ compensation and whistleblower complaints.
These general causes of action existed prior to the pandemic, but the circumstances that gave rise to them occurred because of the virus’s emergence. However, there are also new rights that now exist because of lawmakers’ response to the virus. This too has given rise to legal action.
For example, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act offers emergency family and medical leave as well as emergency paid sick leave for reasons related to COVID. Not all employers have been honoring this.
For instance, there is a pending lawsuit out of Indiana wherein a worker needed to stay home and care for his children because schools had been closed due to the virus. His employer, however, refused his leave request and fired him. In another pending case out of Virginia, a man was fired during his 14-day quarantine – which he was instructed by his doctor to take after testing positive for the highly-contagious, deadly virus. The company reportedly refused to allow him to use the paid sick leave afforded by the FFCRA.
Of course, not every employee who is wrongly fired, discriminated or retaliated against will file a lawsuit, but those who are affected should at least consult with an experienced Los Angeles employment attorney to review the facts of their case and their rights. It’s possible your case may not be worth pursuing, but you don’t want to miss the opportunity to pursue a significant claim – not only for the sake of your own compensation, but also to reduce the chance that the same kind of action could be taken with impunity against another worker.
Contact the employment attorneys at Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Orange County, Riverside and Los Angeles. Call 714-937-2020.
The Coronavirus Is Causing More Employment Lawsuits, Sept. 22, 2020, Forbes Magazine