Minimizing the Risk Of COVID-19 Infection Lawsuits Filed by Employees

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As Americans continue living in an unprecedented era of quarantining, many employees aren’t quarantining at all. Workers in big-box retail shops, warehouses, grocery stores, and more are all still powering the economy as “essential employees,” and they are still physically interacting with other people throughout the day.

They can’t be asked to work from home—their safety requires different solutions. And where there is a dispute over safety, litigation is sure to follow. What does that mean for employers, and how will workers’ compensation interact with social distancing? We are all going to find out—litigation over COVID-19 deaths has already begun.

Employer Blamed for COVID-19-Related Death

In Illinois, a retail worker died of complications from COVID-19. In a new lawsuit—apparently the first of its kind—his lawyers blame the death on the employer’s failure to follow social-distancing guidelines.

The lawsuit faults the employer for allegedly not doing enough to clean and sterilize the workplace, not providing protective equipment for staff, and not providing adequate warnings. Similar lawsuits will proliferate in the months to come.

Why Workers’ Comp May Not Cover All Complaints

The workers’ comp system of each state is built around the idea that an exclusive, administrative remedy should exist for workers injured on the job. But the exclusivity has never been absolute.

For example, most states exempt intentional torts (wrongful acts), and under Oklahoma’s current scheme, an employer may not use workers’ comp’s exclusive remedy to escape a lawsuit outside the workers’ comp system if its acts were substantially certain to cause injuries to its employees.

But how can a court draw that line when evaluating the impact of a virus—especially when the employee could have contracted the virus anywhere? Read more here…

Source: HR Daily Advisor