With the pandemic, there are five employment claims on the rise as employers navigate the pandemic and efforts to re-open businesses. These pandemic related employment claims range from violations of rights to expanded leave under new legislation as well as claims related to employment loss and notice and overtime under well established law.
1. Expanded Leave Due to COVID
The Families First Corona Virus Response Act (“FFRCA”) requires employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide employees with paid sick leave or expanded family/medical leave for reasons related to the pandemic. Though it passed just months ago, there have been a waive of employees bringing claims of retaliation for seeking their right to leave. Retaliation can include your benefits being denied, interfering with your right to leave, or even termination. Check out our blog on the FFCRA paid leave laws that went into effect April 1, 2020.
2. Disability Discrimination
Employees are also bringing discrimination claims under the American with Disabilities Act (“Act”) due to the pandemic. As businesses slowly reopen, an employer’s duty to accommodate its employees has become a big issue. Possible accommodations include working from home, limiting the number of employees in the workplace, providing employees with PPE, or providing a brief leave. Unfortunately, some employers are denying such requests and are therefore facing legal challenges. Learn more about disability discrimination rights amid the pandemic crisis by reviewing guidance recently issued by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the agency who enforces the ADA. Click here for the guidance.
With the mass law offs caused by the pandemic, more employees are bringing claims against their former employers for violations of the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (“COBRA”). Under COBRA, employees who experience a job loss or other qualifying event are entitled to continue their health care coverage with their employer. However, some employers are not complying with COBRA requirements to inform workers of their right to continue coverage or otherwise failing to do so timely. Employers must notify their group health plan administrator within 30 days of employee’s termination, and within 14 days of that notification, the administrator must notify the employee of his or her COBRA rights. If you did not get such notice, you may have a COBRA claim.
4. Impending Layoff Notice
Under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (“WARN”), employers with 100 or more employees are required to issue advance written warnings of possible lay-offs to its employees. However, some employers are not providing this notice, even where they could have reasonably expected such lay offs because of the pandemic. Employees who did not get the required notifications are pursuing claims under WARN.
The Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) allows employers to exempt certain employees from overtime requirements. In response to the pandemic, some employers have changed or given employees new duties that may change an employee’s right to overtime. This means that employees who are typically exempt may pursue an FLSA claims for unpaid overtime (i.e. hours worked in excess of 40 hours per work week).
As employees return to work, another issue is whether employers must pay employees for time-spent waiting in line to be screened. Employees are increasingly bringing FLSA claims for these and other related reasons.
Many employees are trying to redress their rights in the wake of COVID-19. If you believe you have a pandemic related employment claim, we urge you to seek legal advice from experienced attorneys. Don’t delay as there may be strict time deadlines on your claims.