According to national human resources and legal experts, employers can expect to face many lawsuits and claims related to COVID-19 from infected or laid-off employees and families of deceased workers in the coming months. Claims for gross negligence, wage and hour oversights, discrimination, and layoff-notice discrepancies are possible.
Workers Compensation claims are being submitted to insurers and tracked by rate-making or -reporting bodies at the state level. WC laws vary by state, as they relate to communicable diseases, with some state legislatures enacting laws to expand statutes related to COVID-19 claims.
Uncertainty about whether workers’ compensation will apply to COVID-19-related illnesses remains at the federal and state levels. For that reason, employers would be wise to do all they can to limit potential liability, legal experts advise. The best way for employers to do this is by following all guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), state and local health departments, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Exposure to lawsuits and claims could take a number of specific paths:
- Employers should expect a wave of workers’ compensation claims from employees who have contracted COVID-19, claiming that they contracted the virus while at work. Causation should be easier to prove with someone who worked at a facility that continued operating after multiple employees tested positive for COVID-19 than with an individual who worked at a site with one previously confirmed case in a location far from that person.
- In states that exclude flu-like illnesses from workers’ compensation coverage, employees might still bring negligence claims, or their families could still allege wrongful death, since workers’ compensation laws’ exclusive remedy provisions wouldn’t apply.
- Laid-off workers may claim discrimination. Reduction-in-force decisions can impact older workers disproportionately because they tend to be the most highly compensated.
- The Americans with Disabilities Act may come into play, as well, if an employer denies a COVID-19 related accommodation.
- There also could be Occupational Safety and Health Act retaliation claims from workers who contend that they were let go after refusing to return to an unsafe workplace.
The best advice to policyholders is to submit all claims promptly to get an initial coverage determination. Waiting makes it harder to gather critical information to manage costs and losses later. The professionals at The Reschini Group can expertly advise any public or private company on crafting the proper coverage, or anticipating how current coverage terms will be able to handle COVID-19 related claims as they are presented. Contact us today to learn more.
Related Resources from The Reschini Group:
Read an update from OSHA about COVID-related preparedness in the workplace. OSHA Issues Prevention Guidance on COVID-19 in the Workplace 2.1.21 Read a primer about gathering information related to Workers Compensation Claims. WCI- The First 24 Hours After an Injury Watch a video regarding latest trends in litigation related to COVID-19 and the resulting economic impact. (LINK: https://www.reschini.com/litigation-trends-regarding-covid-19/ )
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The Reschini Group provides these updates for information only, and does not provide legal advice. To make decisions regarding insurance matters, please consult directly with a licensed insurance professional or firm.