Thought Leadership

Employment Lawsuits Are Expected to Rise Dramatically due to COVID-19

By May 3, 2020 No Comments

Barry Cohn

Really Great Employee Benefits/JorgensenHR
ProVisors, Westlake 5

Employers have a lot on their minds right now, but they should pay close attention to ensure their actions don’t trigger trouble down the road.
I have attended 3 employment law firm webinars in the past week about COVID-19 and labor law concerns. All three firms stated that plaintiff law firms are busier than ever with employees who want to sue over layoffs, terminations, furloughs, reduction in hours and reduction in pay.

  1. Wage & Hour Claims

    With the sudden and unplanned switch to work-from-home arrangements, companies may not have had time to adequately spell out policies and expectations for employees
    As a result of employees working remotely, standard operating procedures and controls relating to meal and rest breaks have been disrupted. A lack of adequate recordkeeping and oversight increases the risk of wage and hour claims, including overtime pay. In addition, the use of personal computers for business purposes triggers questions and claims relating to companies’ reimbursement policies with respect to cell phone use, internet charges, among many others.

  2. Employee Safety and Claims

    Companies have been required to balance urgent business needs with employee health and safety during the crisis. There will likely be class action suits relating to exposure to the virus in the workplace. In addition, the stress of the pandemic and resulting health needs will increase the likelihood of individual as well as class claims. There is also the possibility of work comp issues for employees that are injured in their own homes during remote work hours.

  3. ERISA Claims

    The stock markets have taken a wild ride in the past few weeks. 401(k) plans have taken a major hit across the board, and some people will be wondering if their advisors should have been doing more to protect them against any loss. Any down market prompts greater scrutiny of past fiduciary decisions.

  4. HIPAA and Employee Medical Privacy Claims

    One of your team members notifies you that they’ve tested positive for COVID-19.

    • What do you do?
    • Do you share this information publicly with the rest of the team so they’re aware of their own exposure?
    • How you handle employees’ medical information will undoubtedly come under scrutiny in the coming months.

    Companies have a legal obligation under HIPAA to protect Protected Health Information (PHI) and Non-Public Private Information (NPPI). Employee privacy claims are likely to follow as the way companies handle sensitive information concerning employees’ health and medical diagnosis is questioned.

  5. Disparate Impact Layoffs Claims

    For many companies, layoffs and downsizing will be unavoidable in the coming months. What can be avoided though, is claims of discrimination, if such layoffs are carefully and prudently planned.

    As companies address the need for layoffs the disparate impact of decisions on who is retained and who is terminated will face scrutiny, opening the door to possible claims of age discrimination and the possibility of clams around race, national origin, sex and retaliation.

    Tips for Employers

    • Create remote work policies including timekeeping and meal and rest break rules
    • Keep track of who is working remotely and regulate their access levels
    • Keep logs of remote access activity
    • IT should configure all devices before allowing them access to the network
    • Have each employee sign a Confidentiality Agreement
    • Create a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) Agreement
    • Have a Media Sanitization Policy that indicates how employees should dispose of PHI and NPPI
    • Train staff on how to recognize social engineering attacks
    • Ensure that your VPN and other remote systems are secure
    • Enhance system monitoring

Source: & TotalHIPAA Compliance


Author ProVisors

More posts by ProVisors