2020 broke records across the board when it came to workplace-related lawsuits, particularly class-action lawsuits filed by groups of employees banding together to take on their employers’ approach to workplace safety, pay, and leave policies. The lawsuits were driven in large part by COVID-19 and its profound impact on how we view work in this country.
Over 1,000 workplace-related lawsuits were filed in one of the most tumultuous years in United States history. Some estimates put the number at closer to 1,500 and that could just be the first wave. Layoffs, furloughs, and other disruptions continued well into the end of the year and the start of 2021. Subsequently, lawsuits from some of those occurrences could be still in preparation and not yet filed.
Some 200 lawsuits were filed by or on behalf of employees who allege that their employers failed to take adequate steps to protect them from the virus while working on site. These allegations include the failure to provide enough personal protective equipment like masks and gloves, failing to properly sanitize workplace areas or enforce proper sanitization guidelines, and failing to properly check customers’ temperatures or enforce mask-wearing while at the place of business. OSHA regulations specifically state that employers are required to create a space “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm” to their employees.
Several other categories of workplace lawsuits saw significant increases in 2020. They include wage and earnings disputes, largely due to disagreements over whether time spent putting on and taking off PPE for work should be compensated, as well as lawsuits filed by those forced to create spaces for work-from-home who allege the expenses for those home offices were never reimbursed. Discrimination- and retaliation-based lawsuits also saw increases.
More information on the lawsuits and what they might mean for 2021 can be seen over at USA Today.