Protecting Employees Will Help Texas Employers Avoid COVID-19 Lawsuits
This will be short and to the point. Texas companies will be targets of lawsuits brought by employees stricken with the COVID-19 virus. Texas employers who do not carry workers’ compensation insurance can be sued by employees who sustain on the job injuries and illnesses. And Texas law states that employers owe an absolute legal duty to provide their employees a reasonably safe place to work.
To win a COVID-19 lawsuit against an employer, an employee would first have to prove to a jury that it is more likely than not that she was exposed to the virus at work. This would not be as hard as you might guess.
Secondly, the employee would have to prove that the employer was negligent, and that this negligence was a cause of her exposure. “Negligence” simply means that the employer failed to take reasonable steps to protect its employees from such exposures. A jury finding of negligence could lead to an award of past and future medical expenses, lost wages, pain, suffering, impairment and mental anguish.
The great news is that the steps that will protect your company from liability are the same as those that will protect your employees! In other words, the more active steps you take to protect your employees, the more likely it is that the jury will find that your company was not negligent.
The Center of Disease Controls has prepared a list of recommended strategies to help employers contain the spread of the illness within their workplace. The more of these you put into effect, the more likely it is that employees won’t be exposed at your business. But even if the worst happens you will be able to argue that the company was not negligent since it followed all CDC guidelines. The guidelines are:
Actively encourage sick employees to stay home
Separate sick employees in the workplace and send them home
Emphasize staying home when sick, respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene by all employees by posting informational posters and setting up multiple hand hygiene stations
Perform routine environmental cleaning and provide disposable wipes for employees to use
Get the latest information regarding travel safety
Communicate your attendance expectations to your employees
OSHA has published an even more comprehensive set of precautionary guidelines for employers: https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3990.pdf. The more of these you put into effect, the more protected you will be when the wave of lawsuits hits.
Please feel free to pass this onto anyone you think might be helped by it. Our firm is up, running and here to help. Call us if you have questions, and please stay safe.