CAN SOMEONE recover damages from a business if they claim that a family member caught COVID-19 at work and spread it to them?
For California businesses, a court recently said that they might be able to. And courts in other states may use the decision as guidance.A California appellate court in December ruled that a lawsuit filed by the widow of a 72-year-old man who died of COVID-19 in April 2020 could proceed. While the decision does not mean that she will win, it does mean that California courts will not automatically dismiss these kinds of suits.
Legal observers worry that the court greenlighting the “COVID-19 takehome” case to proceed could set off a cavalcade of similar lawsuits, and that if the plaintiffs are victorious it could open a whole new area of liability:
Employers being liable for illnesses transmitted from one person to another in a workplace that leads to further infections among an employee’s family.
Business groups warned in court papers filed before the decision that such a ruling could prompt lawsuits by an infected employee’s family, friends and anyone infected by that circle of people.
Those bringing the suits still face a difficult task – proving that an employee contracted the virus at work and that the exposure at work resulted in the family member or friend becoming infected.
Still, until a verdict comes down, businesses face a risk of being sued by their own employees for similar reasons. Even if a company wins its case, it will still have to pay for legal fees.
It’s important that employers continue to follow OSHA and Centers for Disease Control guidance on protecting workers from COVID-19 to avoid being swept up in similar litigation.
Preventing sexual harassment
Prevention is the cornerstone of reducing the risk of a sexual harassment lawsuit. Finally, if your firm has EPLI, any incident should be reported to your insurer immediately.
Put Policies in Place
- Create, communicate and enforce a zerotolerance policy for workplace sexual harassment.
- Have an effective harassment complaint process in place and take immediate, consistent and appropriate action when a complaint is made.
- Thoroughly document all complaints and the following investigation and actions.