As the world has dealt with the ongoing global pandemic, COVID-19, many individuals have lost their jobs for the foreseeable future. Since COVID-19 hit the USA, unemployment has been on a drastic rise. Over 22 million people have filed unemployment claims due to the pandemic. With this, many lawyers in class action predict a large number of lawsuits filed over COVID-19 and they believe they will come from employees. This includes: employers denied wages, discriminated during layoffs, or putting workers in unsafe conditions. So far, employees for the government, a hand bell factory and a hair salon have filed class actions. This is just the beginning and it is being predicted that many more may come.
During this period, many companies are trying to navigate these hard times. They are deciding if an employee can/should work from home or whether they should wear a mask and come to work. Companies are dealing with their policies and procedures and looking to see where to make changes.
Unsafe working conditions was the first-class action, where individuals questioned the ability to work in environments where exposure was high. The individuals who all work for the government in different operations are seeking hazard pay as they believe the protective equipment necessary for them to do their jobs is not available.
In Alaska, a lawsuit was filed at the end of March 2020 against the state where it stated that they failed to protect individuals, did not offer telecommute, and social distancing measures were not being followed. A New York based law firm has created a coronavirus task force and they are looking at all these cases. The cases they are looking at do not involve individuals who do not want to go to work, but rather not being given the correct and adequate equipment to continue working safely.
Another big factor in these class action lawsuits are layoffs. Under the WARN (Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification) Act it requires companies to provide employees with an advanced notice of large layoffs. Since this global pandemic came unexpectedly and forced a lot of big companies to have employees work from home it has caused some headache for both employers and employees. Some states have suspended the WARN Act due to the pandemic and everything going on. One lawyer stated that any employer who did not pay out final wages, including vacation time will be sued. They also expressed that discrimination claims can come too if a large number of workers who were laid off were elderly.
These are unprecedented times and extremely scary for individuals who have lost their job due to COVID-19. Some believe a lot of worker class action lawsuits will happen due to the nature of companies on behalf of laying off/firing employees. A lot of individuals are concerned with how they will make ends meet, which is a terrifying situation. People are hopeful and as a country we have seen our economy bounce back before, but right now we are navigating difficult waters. We have seen just the beginning of worker class action lawsuits according to some lawyers.