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The increase in class actions in the workplace haunts: Experts



The Covid-19 pandemic will generate more class actions in the workplace this year, especially for pay and hourly issues, experts warn.

There has been a significant increase in the size of total class actions, especially last year, and the trend is expected

Based on the 10 largest case solutions in various categories of class action lawsuits in the workplace, settlements amounted to $ 1.58 billion in 2020 and $ 3.62 billion in 2021, compared to $ 1.34 billion in 2019, according to the Seyfarth Shaw LLP: s annual report on class actions in the workplace: 2022 edition.

"The big issue is that you have the Biden administration which is very, very pro-worker, pro-regulation, and so you will have government enforcement measures that are very much in line with the plaintiff's class action," which will lead to an increase in the notifications, said Gerald Maatman, a partner with Seyfarth Shaw in Chicago.

COVID-1

9 will contribute to the expected increase this year, experts say.

Employers' efforts to comply with various Covid-19-related obligations " territory, in terms of potential class actions ", says Gregory P. Abrams, a partner with Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP in Chicago, who represents employers.

" COVID has opened up completely new views for plaintiffs' bar, says Lisa A. Schreter , a shareholder in Littler Mendelson PC in Atlanta.

For example, an appeals court in California in See & # 39 ;s Candies Inc. v. Ek ruled that South San Francisco-based See & # 39 ;s Candies mustfaced with a lawsuit by an employee who claimed she caught covid. -19 at work and gave it to her husband, which resulted in his death. it reflects a larger trend that we see in California with more of these claims, "said Schreter.

Among traditional litigation applied to the pandemic is religious discrimination, which can be asserted by workers who face consequences if they refuse to be vaccinated, Tao Leung, a partner of Hogan Lovell's US LLP in Los Angeles.

The recent U.S. Supreme Court decision blocking a covid-19 vaccine-or-test mandate for large employers could lead to fees that employers do not have enough with security measures in place, as it could open companies to exposure to allegations of spreading the virus, says Adam Kemper, Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based partner of Kelley Kronenberg PA.

"As long as covid exist and employers continue to keep employees in close contact with each other to where they interact "there is" always a certain degree "of this risk, he said.

At the same time, wage and hourly disputes continue to be" the hot, driving edge of class action, "he said. Paul E. Starkman, a member of the law firm Clark Hill PLC in Chicago.

Situations such as a traveling salesman now working at a corporate facility or jobs being relocated due to workers calling themselves sick may result in new employees being entitled to overtime pay. according to the Fair Labor Standards Act and create exposure for employers if wages are not adjusted appropriately, said Mr. Kemper.

"The way people are paid is still the No. 1 pressure point," Mr. Sa Maatman. "People who work from home will raise questions about when the workday begins and ends," he said. some employers because even if they are eventually caught, fines will still cost less than what would follow the statutes.

Experts also point to the "big layoff" – where many employees have voluntarily left their jobs during the pandemic, creating labor shortcomings – as a factor that will contribute to more moods being raised. Workers are more willing to participate in class action lawsuits, and plaintiff's attorneys "reap the low-hanging fruit when employers do not follow pay and hourly rules," Starkman said.

There has been a shift in the balance of power between workers and their businesses, said Ian Carleton Schaefer, President, New York Employment and Labor, at Loeb & Loeb LLP in New York.

"When someone sees something that is not working or does not meet the requirements," they are not afraid. "To act individually or collectively because they know there are plenty of jobs out there," he said. "It is a lower risk proposal."

Another issue is non-uniform laws. Plaintiff's attorneys will benefit from the "complicated patchwork" of employment-related laws, said Jason E. Reisman, a partner with Blank Rome LLP in Philadelphia.

He pointed to a July 2021 ruling by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in ] Re: Amazon.com, Inc. which in part contained that there is no "de minimis" exception under Pennsylvania's pay laws, which means that employers must pay workers for even minimal amounts of time, such as minutes that go through screening. This is not the case under the FLSA.

Another problem is privacy-related disputes, including litigation over the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act. Illinois remains the only state that allows individuals to pursue litigation under a private right to speak, even though New York City has enacted such legislation.

Experts say it has already led to significant litigation in Illinois and will lead to more lawsuits if other states adopt it.


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