Legal Battles Rage On

Litigation continues as employees get sick. In May 2020, The Washington Post published that nearly 800 lawsuits had been filed by prisons, followed by healthcare and every facet of hospitality and tourism, claiming illness and wrongful death. By September 2020 “…more than 5,000 lawsuits…had been filed as the ‘tidal wave’ of litigation was just getting started, although rarely will a business be found liable for death due to a high legal bar for finding fault. 

Businesses answer hard questions to specific challenges around class action suits seeking restitution. But on the positive side, the Pandemic is influencing a wider change in work culture with increased levels of empathy and understanding. With more changes on the horizon, employers have implemented positive change that positively reflect their culture and brand. The impetus for management to better care for staff see health and safety prioritized with innovative technology that both facilitates distancing and supports mental health. Employees want their bosses to have their backs. creating a real impact on well-being. 

Staying (or Getting) Out of Legal Battles - Global Investigative Journalism  Conference 2019

Leaders are stepping up, exhibiting new levels of empathy through heartfelt communication and supportive action. Brands are re-evaluating more than ever, especially those organizations who chose the route of economy first employee second mentality. “…how a company responds… will define the brand for decades…how you treat employees today…impacts your brand in future years…” states Mark Cuban.  

  • Salesforce offers Thriving Mind app for health articles and webinars, access to Plum Village Zen Meditation app.                           
  • Power Home Remodeling provides access to mental health coaching app Sanvello and virtual therapy app Talkspace.                                                                                                                                                                                                      
  • TransferWise Technology offers discounts on well-being services like Headspace app for mindfulness and wellness. 
  • Merit Digital Credentials provides wellness coaching and texting with professionals through the Sibly app.                          
  • Benecard Prescription benefits partnered with the Free Form Minds app and website.                                                 
  • Amazon audits gauge effectiveness of health and safety measures and contactless sign in/ sign out/breaks.                
  • Coca-Cola launched Life at Coke app for access to support groups, webinars, fitness sessions, development programs. 
  • Ally Financial offers access to free mental health modules, virtual doctors, and online health care services.                                    
  • Lowes created an app to monitor traffic, enforce distancing to track flow of customers and limit entry inside.      
  • Starbucks gives part time employees 20 sessions a year through the Lyra Health app.                                                       
  • Target provided health resources with Daylight app; Sleepio app to improve sleep; virtual fitness classes with Wellbeats.  
  • SoFi Loans offers access to a mental health app Modern Health for in-person or video therapy.  

“Navigating workers comp and damage claims…has resulted in litigation around public health, health care, education, criminal justice, commerce…employment cases allege…wrongful discharge, disability discrimination, unhealthful working conditions…legal actions…are increasing…and the source of contention and legislation TBD…” The Hill, August 2020 

Employers remain compliant with changing standards and recommendations, but should another resurgence occur, is it wholly on the employer to monitor, react and respond to litigation in the courts. 

Zuniga vs Safeway/Albertsons: wife of deceased filed claims in Federal Courts; as of January 2021, case remanded back to the State Courts for further litigation over a worker passing from Covid-19, allegedly getting sick on the job.  

Evans vs Walmart: litigating over the death of an employee after experiencing symptoms: as of February 2021, the wrongful death suit still pending in Circuit Court, claiming wanton misconduct and reckless disregard.  

Barker vs Tysons: wife of deceased litigating wrongful death when management neglected to shut down in a timely fashion: as of March 2021, this case remains unresolved according to a story published by The Philadelphia Inquirer. 

Legal Sea Foods vs Strathmore Insurance Company: lost the battle for insurance reimbursement after choosing to remain closed the ‘all risk’ policy did not entitle them to coverage of loss. 

No-one knows what comes next as the rules keep changing. While many struggle to recover, others will rebound. And as claims become trials, the Pandemic will have a profound impact on jury selection.