Every business in America has been affected by the COVID pandemic. Many were shuttered for at least some period of time. Others have limited their open hours or capacity to comply with state regulations. Sadly, many smaller businesses have had to permanently close their doors.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a rise in employment litigation across the country. Navigating a pandemic is new territory for employers, and a lot are anxious about how it could affect their businesses for years to come. Many are unsure of how to handle it as it arises now. And even more so, employers would like to prevent it.
Having a legal consultant can help prevent any employment issues that arise due to COVID.
How can an outside legal consultant help me protect my business from COVID-related employee lawsuits?
The best course of action is to be proactive. A legal consultant can help you do that. Hire a legal consultant immediately to critically evaluate your business and decide whether or not you are adequately following your state’s COVID guidelines.
What kinds of COVID-related lawsuits are being filed?
According to Fisher Phillips COVID Employment Litigation Tracker, as of March 2021, there have been more than 1,900 COVID-related lawsuits filed against employers since the pandemic began. 21.6%, the overwhelming majority, were in the healthcare field, which is to be expected. However, other industries were not immune to the pandemic of COVID-related employee lawsuits.
After the healthcare industry, we fortunately see a sharp decrease. And the next highest instances of COVID-related lawsuits are in the retail and manufacturing industries respectively. Retail was at 8.9%, and manufacturing was at 8.7%.
And of these 1,900+ COVID employment lawsuits, 27.1% of them had to do with remote work and leave conflicts. 24% were employee discrimination suits. Finally, 23.7% were whistleblower and retaliation cases.
When we look at company size, we see that smaller companies with only 1 – 50 employees received the most lawsuits at 34%. Presumably these are smaller healthcare practices and retail shops. Coming in next, companies with 101 – 500 employees received 19.4%. These are likely to be manufacturing plants and larger retailers. In both of these groups, the majority of the cases were remote work and leave conflicts.
According to Forbes magazine, COVID has not only given a platform to traditional employee lawsuits such as discrimation, retaliation, and wrongful termination, but it has also created new legal standards employers must abide by. Employees feel that they are entitled to new rights that protect them from the occupational effects COVID. Specifically, they expect to be guaranteed paid emergency leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the new Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), or worker’s compensation.
Discriminations lawsuits happen when employees allege that employers are not making proper accommodations to support workers who are worried about contracting the virus. Specifically, this is happening because many employees who would prefer to work from home are being denied the privilege for various reasons.
Retaliation and whistleblower suits come into play when employees feel discriminated against after reporting their employers’ unlawful practices to the authorities. This can take the form of a hostile work environment or wrongful termination.
I am sure that some of the lawsuits are legitimate. And I am guessing that many of them were not intentional. Again, this is a new landscape.
And this is a perfect example of how working with a legal consultant could benefit you. Bringing one in to look your current business practices could be the difference between thriving and losing everything.
What is a legal consultant?
A legal consultant is a law professional who can give legal advice. In addition to advising, they are qualified to handle disputes and draft documents, among other things. They have gone through law school, and they have earned a Juris Doctorate. However, they may not have necessarily taken or passed the Bar Exam. Also, they may have additional licensing depending on their specialty. Additionally, a consultant is typically retained for a shorter period of time and for much smaller projects than a fully-licensed attorney.
What kind of services does a legal consultant offer?
The specific services a legal consultant offers may vary depending on their individual specialization and the specific legal issue at hand. In general, they are qualified to give legal advice, prepare contracts, review records, and evaluate policies and procedures.
How can I prevent a COVID-related lawsuit in my business?
When you hire a consultant, they will likely begin by looking critically at your company’s practices as a whole. They will also want to review company COVID practices and investigate their implementation. If you don’t have any of the necessary policies, they can help you draft them. Once these policies and procedures are clearly outlined, a consultant will also be able to provide training to you and your staff as you implement any new policies or if you just want to offer a refresher to you employees.
What can I do to take action today?
If you are one of the lucky ones who are still in business at this point, don’t wait until you come face to face with a problem. Legal battles are costly and time-consuming. Fighting one will, at the very least, cut into your profits. At worst, you could lose everything you have worked so hard for and end up permanently shut down as well. Having a legal consultant review your COVID-related practices before there is an issue will save you precious time and money in the long run.
Here at HireJar, we connect you with the right legal consultant for your specific situation. When you post your consultation needs, our qualified consultants will reach out with their terms and conditions and fees if necessary.