As economic uncertainty and unemployment concerns rise, lawyers in the class action bar are predicting the largest group of lawsuits to be filed over the Covid-19 outbreak will likely come from employees, over illegal conduct including denied wages, discrimination in layoffs, and unsafe working conditions, as well as potential labor antitrust cases relating to collusion by employers to suppress wages and improperly restrict employee mobility. As reported by Law.com (subscription), in the midst of massive economic disruption due to coronavirus-related shutdowns, the U.S. Labor Department has released new statistics that show nearly twenty-two million people applied for unemployment benefits during the past month.
As of now, only a handful of employment class actions have been filed resulting from the impacts of the Coronavirus and employer responses to the restrictions and business closures. The groups involved in the suits thus far include government employees seeking hazard pay who claim their employers did not supply them with the personal protective equipment needed to avoid exposure to the virus, workers who claim they were unfairly laid off, and employees who lost their jobs without receiving wages already due.
Although the vast majority of individuals and businesses are demonstrating extraordinary compassion and flexibility in responding to COVID-19, others are already using it as an opportunity to prey on American workers by subverting competition in labor markets, including by collusive wage fixing and worker mobility restrictions. As unemployment claims continue to escalate, class action attorneys anticipate that the number of these types of lawsuits will skyrocket.
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