Understanding and responding to the business and legal impacts of COVID-19

The Next COVID-19 Employment Litigation Hotbeds

September 16, 2020, Law360, by Braden Campbell, In the coming weeks and months, the safety and wrongful termination lawsuits that have made up the bulk of coronavirus-related litigation thus far in the pandemic may give way to wage, discrimination, and other claims, experts say. The suits filed so far reflect workers’ main concerns in the early days of the pandemic, as government shutdowns forced millions onto the unemployment rolls, and workers who still had jobs feared reporting to work. As more businesses and courts open up and other claims percolate, employers may be in for a new set of suits. “I do anticipate that there will be more suits in the future [and] I think there will be a shift from what we’ve seen to date,” Paul Hastings LLP employment partner Jeffrey Webb said.

Here, Law360 looks at areas of workplace law that could soon become litigation hotbeds.

Discriminatory Layoffs, Disability Bias The sudden shutdowns amid COVID-19’s rapid spread in March forced businesses to lay off or furlough millions of workers, many of whom have not gotten their jobs back. Six months later, these mass layoffs could spell lawsuits.

Laura Jacobsen, labor and employment law group co-chair at McDonald Carano LLP, said she expects to see a wave of suits accusing employers of unwittingly discriminating against certain groups in their layoffs. So-called disparate impact suits accuse an employer of applying a neutral policy or practice to discriminatory effect. If a layoff fell harder on older workers, the employer could face a lawsuit even if it didn’t consciously discriminate, Jacobsen said.

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