Employers in various industries based in Pennsylvania and around the country are getting ready to resume something resembling “business as usual.” Reopening their companies in a post-pandemic world will come with challenges, but the relief in resuming operations will seem to be worth overcoming the obstacles.
However, that respite may be short-lived. While the coronavirus impacted revenue streams, another epidemic could adversely affect their bottom line worse than any pandemic could.
Employers Facing a Flood of Litigation
Legal experts are predicting a wave of coronavirus-related lawsuits hitting both employers and subsequently courtrooms en masse. The plaintiffs will likely be parents who have children at home who were forced to finish the academic year online. With all family members sheltering at home, mothers and fathers incorporating work-at-home routines while ensuring that their children are receiving the education they need.
Many of the complaints center around the Famlies First Coronavirus Response Act. The recently passed law mandates staff who work for employers with fewer than 500 employees receive 12 weeks of paid sick leave and expanded medical leave at a rate of two-thirds of their salary through December 31, 2020. Companies with fewer than 50 staff members may qualify for the exemption.
A newly established law that was passed on the fast track only creates confusion and chaos for employers forced to administer the mandates. Mistakes happen. Requests for leave may be misinterpreted. With the best of intentions, employers may not realize that they’re breaking the law.
Employers should tread carefully. While parentage is not universally a protected class under federal anti-discrimination laws, federal courts have been able to connect family caregiving and sex discrimination. A typical example would be a supervisor seeing less value in an employee due to their status as a mother, resulting in accusations of gender bias. Proactively addressing this possibility comes by reviewing past layoffs to ensure that there is not a pattern of this behavior.
A side effect of this pandemic may actually change preconceived notions. Employer perceptions could change. Employees who are caring and committed parents are not so much a strain on productivity as they are a valuable member of a company with highly unique skills in multi-tasking.