Compared to other states, California has been noticeably lenient with its enforcement of COVID-related public health orders. By the end of 2020, the state had issued just over 400 citations and suspended only 2 business licenses. Compare that to New York, which, in the same time period, issued over 1,800 citations and suspended 279 liquor licenses alone.
Still, to avoid citations as well as employee litigation, it’s a good idea to take as many precautions as possible to create a safe working environment while COVID-19 continues to threaten people’s health.
Even as vaccines begin to roll out across the country, the end of the pandemic still seems pretty far away. Our team at Sherman Law Corporation has put together a short list of the most important steps you can take to keep your business afloat in the era of COVID-19.
Minimizing Employee Lawsuits
From March to November of 2020, there were 234 employment litigation claims in California that were related to COVID-19. Of those lawsuits, 65% were against private employers with fewer than 500 employees. This is in part due to a number of new and existing laws that give employees the opportunity to sue their employers for COVID-19 violations.
The 90s-era Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES) all create federal regulations requiring businesses to provide their employees with paid sick leave, family and medical leave, and a number of other health-related benefits.
California’s state-level counterpart to these laws was Senate Bill 1383, which modified the existing California Family Rights Act (CFRA) to expand employees’ access to paid family and medical leave.
As of 2021, all California businesses with 5 or more employees are legally required to provide eligible employees with up to 12 workweeks of paid family or medical leave.
To avoid substantial financial losses as a result of both state enforcement and employee litigation, Sherman Law Corporation is encouraging all businesses to revise their policies and practices to comply with the new 2021 law.
However, family and medical leave isn’t the only dispute that California employees are suing over. Here are 6 of the most common COVID-related employment litigation claims in California:
- Unsafe working conditions
- FMLA and CFRA violations
- Retaliation/whistleblower cases
- Wage and hour disputes
- Data privacy/technology disputes
- Disability discrimination
As business owners are reviewing their policies and implementing changes, they should keep the above list in mind and do everything they can to avoid costly COVID-19 claims.
Creating a safe working environment
In September of 2020, the California Department of Public Health issued a COVID-19 Employer Playbook for a safe reopening. It outlined industry-specific guidelines and checklists to complete before reopening your business to the public.
While circumstances have changed since September of 2020, this document is still a useful guideline for how to create a safe and litigation-free workplace during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Here are some of the key takeaways:
- Complete a risk assessment and COVID-19 prevention plan for your business.
- Educate employees on how they can limit spreading COVID-19 within the workplace.
- Implement control measures and screenings to prevent sick workers from entering your facility.
- Establish disinfection protocols.
- Create social distancing guidelines for your staff and building visitors.
- Enforce the California Department of Public Health face-covering guidance within your office.
- Develop an action plan for the possibility of a COVID-19 case in your workplace.
These precautions are not only necessary to avoid employment litigation, but also to ensure the smooth operation of your business.
Making use of the CARES Act
Creating a safe working environment and ensuring compliance with state and federal law are both important strategies for businesses to survive in the COVID-19 era. But sometimes, preventing losses isn’t enough, and businesses need a little bit of extra help.
Luckily, the CARES Act didn’t just implement protections for workers. It also implemented a number of benefits to help struggling small and mid-size businesses. Some of these benefits include:
- Small business grants
- Small business loans
- Mid-size business loans
- Tax credits for small businesses
Read about the CARES Act in more detail to find out how you can take advantage of these benefits.
Contact an employment attorney in California today
Whether you’re dealing with COVID-related employment litigation, or your business is struggling as a result of the frequent shutdowns, an employment attorney can help. Sherman Law Corporation has the experience and knowledge of the law to make sure your business stays afloat. Contact us today for a free consultation.