According to data published by a litigation watch tracker, the number of COVID-19-related employment lawsuits in the United States recently passed the 2,000 mark. From the start of the pandemic back in early 2020, experts believed employment-related litigation regarding COVID-19 might be a concern, and it appears they were correct.
COVID-19 employment law cases in the U.S.
The first COVID-19-related employment complaint was filed in March 2020, hitting 1,000 complaints eight months later in November. It took less than five months to reach the next milestone of 2,000 complaints, according to the Jackson Lewis COVID-19 Employment LitWatch, a site that tracks complaints filed in federal and state courts nationwide alleging labor and employment law violations related to COVID-19.
The LitWatch site has noted several trends in COVID-19-related litigation over the past year, including the following.
- States with the most complaints filed include California (505), New Jersey (267), Florida (142), New York (137), Ohio (127), Texas (105), and Michigan (74).
- California and New Jersey residents utilize state court rather than federal for their employment complaints, at 96% and 89% respectively.
- The vast majority of cases, at 83.3% total, include allegations of wrongful termination.
- The healthcare industry appears to facing the brunt of COVID-19 employment litigation, but retail and consumer goods are seeing an increase – 13.7% of complaints in 2021.
- The largest amount of claims – 85.5% of claims filed in 2021 – are “Disability, Leave & Accommodation,” “Discrimination/Harassment,” and “Retaliation/Whistleblower” claims.
- In 2020 and 2021, plaintiffs filed 86 employment class action lawsuits related to COVID-19 claims.
How is this data collected and analyzed?
The LitWatch data is based on a feed of thousands of filed civil complaints provided by the Courthouse News Service. LitWatch searches through all of these complaints for the key term “COVID-19,” “coronavirus,” or other synonyms. Reviewers from LitWatch look for cases that reference things like:
- Cases that involve an employment or labor dispute between an employer and an employee
- A true connection between the employment claim and COVID-19 rather than just an incidental one
Using these methods results in a higher rate of precision, weeding out cases that simply mention COVID-19 in favor of those cases that deal directly with a labor dispute regarding the pandemic. They also note that some claims may fall into multiple categories.
“After excluding the complaints that do not meet our strict criteria, each remaining complaint is then categorized by our experts. Often, a complaint will include claims that fall into multiple categories. For example, many of the ‘Discrimination/Harassment’ and ‘Disability, Leave & Accommodation’ complaints also include allegations of retaliation. In those cases, our experts will choose the single most appropriate category.”
COVID-19 employment law cases in California
Now that we have a picture of what it looks like in the United States, let’s drill down into what the COVID-19 employment law complaint landscape looks like in California.
As of this writing, California has 505 outstanding COVID-19-related employment law complaints – 479 state and 26 federal. They are broken down as follows:
- Contract (6)
- Disability, Leave & Accommodation (170)
- Discrimination/Harassment (123)
- Other (3)
- Retaliation/Whistleblower (122)
- Traditional Labor (1)
- Wage and Hour (37)
- WARN Act (2)
- Workplace Safety & Conditions (42)
- Wrongful Termination (3)
This breaks down to 12.8 complaints per million Californians, and 13.92 complaints per 100,00 COVID-19 cases.
You have rights as an employee, even during a pandemic
Although we have seen the way we live and do business undergo rapid changes during the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic should not affect your rights as an employee. Employers are required to make reasonable accommodations before asking their workers to take unpaid leave, furlough or terminate them. Employers must also take every precaution in avoiding the community spread of COVID-19, which includes protecting their employees.
If you believe your employer has discriminated or retaliated against you for COVID-19-related work issues, you may be protected under California or federal law. The experienced attorneys at McNicholas & McNicholas LLP have been advocating for the workers of Los Angeles for decades. To schedule a remote review of your case, call 310-474-1582 or reach out to us through our contact page to tell us your story.
Please note that this blog is not to be construed as legal advice. Because every case is fact-specific, you should consult directly with an attorney to obtain legal advice specific to your situation.
For more than three decades, McNicholas & McNicholas, LLP has built a reputation as one of California’s leading law firms. Founded by a family of attorneys spanning three generations, John McNicholas and sons, Patrick and Matthew, have tried hundreds of cases to jury verdict on behalf of clients. Learn More about McNicholas & McNicholas