February 5, 2023

Volume XIII, Number 36

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February 03, 2023

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February 02, 2023

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Use Your Noodle: Assistant Manager Sues Over COVID-19 Related Termination

This week’s spotlight is on a category of COVID-19 related workplace complaints that will almost certainly become prevalent as employers deal with the unfolding pandemic: employees testing positive for COVID-19. The allegations in these cases demonstrate the importance of employers properly training supervisors and employees to deal with employees who contract COVID-19. 

The plaintiff in Prada v. Trifecta Productions, LLC (d/b/a Tomkun Noodle Bar) was the assistant manager of a noodle bar on the University of Michigan campus, and alleges he was “unceremoniously fired” after he contracted COVID-19 and was ordered to self-quarantine by the county health department. According to the plaintiff, he advised his employer of the order to self-quarantine, and claims he was “interrogated” by his supervisor. The complaint claims his supervisor asked him how he contracted the virus, asked “whether he had been out partying and acting irresponsible,” and told him that there was evidence on social media that the plaintiff had been out in a crowd. The supervisor then allegedly told the plaintiff that “for PR reasons it would be best for you not to come back to work,” and told him to “to apply for unemployment and to ‘begin looking for other work,’” after which he was terminated. The plaintiff brings claims for interference and retaliation in violation of his rights under the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act (FFCRA), and wrongful termination in violation of public policy. 

The plaintiff also brings an unrelated claim under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) for improper tip crediting and misappropriation of service charges. The tracker contains a number of similar cases, pairing COVID-19 allegations with unrelated traditional federal or state law wage and hour violations, both on an individual basis (as in Prada) and on a class or collective basis.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, unfortunately, employers can and should expect to see employees become infected, and will need to handle these situations with care. Employers can prepare by being sure to understand and follow the public health guidance coming out at the local, state, and federal levels, and by ensuring they are in compliance with applicable employment law and regulations. 

© 2023 BARNES & THORNBURG LLPNational Law Review, Volume X, Number 255

About this Author

Peter J. Wozniak Barnes Thornburg Chicago  Labor Employment

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...

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...

Scott Witlin Employment lawyer Barnes Thornburg

Scott J. Witlin is a partner and the administrator of the Labor & Employment Department in the firm's Los Angeles office. He is Co-Chair of the firm's Wage and Hour Practice Group and a member of the firm's Entertainment, Media and Sports Practice Group.

Scott assists companies in dealing with the challenges of employing workers in California and throughout the U.S. Scott's practice includes both traditional labor and employment law matters, including wage and hour class actions, arbitrations, collective bargaining negotiations, compliance with various guild and union agreements...