July 5, 2020

Volume X, Number 187

July 03, 2020

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July 02, 2020

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COVID-19 Related Workplace Litigation Picks Up Steam

We have seen a number of interesting trends in the last two months, including the proliferation of COVID-19 retaliation and discrimination claims, and the relative dearth of WARN Act cases (at least so far). But one of the more interesting trends is that the COVID-19 pandemic appears to have acted as an accelerant for run-of-the-mill wage and hour cases. You will see on our tracker a number of cases where wage and hour claims appear to be “tacked on” to a complaint alleging facts largely related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Earlier this week, we posted a case emblematic of this trend. In Lange v. 24-Hour Medical Staffing Services LLC, the plaintiff, a “traveling nurse,” filed a class action complaint against the defendant employer, a medical staffing company, asserting sundry violations of the California Labor Code as well as claims for unfair competition and unlawful business practices. In particular, the plaintiff alleges that although she worked directly with COVID-19 patients, the defendant employer did not provide her with appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).

While the factual allegations consist largely of general COVID-19 facts and statistics, the claims alleged are primarily California wage and hour violations, including failure to pay overtime wages, failure to provide meal and rest breaks, failure to provide accurate wage statements, and failure to pay wages owed at termination – entirely independent of the COVID-19 pandemic. The complaint then appears to shoehorn the COVID-19 allegations into an unfair competition and unlawful business practices claim under the California Business and Professions Code, by claiming that the defendant failed to provide employees with PPE necessary for a safe workplace in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

We expect this trend to continue as enterprising plaintiffs’ counsel get clients in the door with COVID-19 related bias, discrimination, and retaliation claims, only to supplement these claims with technical wage and hour violations. 

© 2020 BARNES & THORNBURG LLPNational Law Review, Volume X, Number 165

TRENDING LEGAL ANALYSIS


About this Author

Peter J. Wozniak Barnes Thornburg Chicago  Labor Employment
Partner

Pete Wozniak is a vigorous advocate who strives to help his clients navigate issues that can be fraught with challenges as painlessly and efficiently as possible. He is a candid and personable counselor, offering his clients direct advice by leveraging his deep experience performing a broad range of outcome critical functions for complex labor and employment matters.

Pete represents clients across a number of industries, including transportation and logistics, restaurants, retail, manufacturing, and temporary staffing. Handling a number of high profile matters, he identifies the...

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Mark Wallin, Attorney, BT, Chicago, Labor Employment
Of Counsel

In order to provide the best counsel, Mark Wallin believes it is his role to understand his clients’ business needs so he can help them determine what resolution will provide the most benefit. His keen ability to understand his clients’ practical concerns allows him to advise on the best path to successfully resolve issues – whether through traditional litigation or negotiated resolution.

In the course of his practice, Mark has focused on providing the highest-level of service to his clients and building long-term relationships. Specifically, he defends employers in a wide range of employment matters including wage and hour class and collective actions, as well as complex, multi-plaintiff and single plaintiff employment discrimination claims brought not only by private plaintiffs but also initiated by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Mark has successfully represented companies of virtually all sizes, litigating matters across multiple areas of the law, from the pleading stage through appeal. He has also represented clients in arbitrations and before administrative bodies.

Mark vigilantly stays abreast of cases, laws, and trends that may impact his clients coming out of the courts, Congress and the state legislature, as well as the U.S. Department of Labor, the EEOC, and state regulatory agencies. He strives to keep a watchful eye on how labor and employment related laws are evolving so as to proactively advise clients.

In addition to his regular legal practice, Mark has undertaken several pro bono cases including trying criminal jury trials in state and federal court, and representing indigent plaintiffs in civil rights matters as part of the federal Trial Bar.

Mark began honing his litigation skill during law school when he interned at the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Northern District of Illinois, where he handled both civil and criminal issues. He also interned for a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, which gave him a unique vantage of seeing the issues from the court’s perspective.

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