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COVID-19 Related Workplace Litigation Tracker

Wage and Hour Group Editors: Kathleen Anderson, Scott Witlin, Peter Wozniak, Mark Wallin
Contributing Authors: Norma Zeitler, Caroline Dickey, Carolina Flores, Anthony Glenn, Taylor Hunter, Alex Petrik

As many states around the country begin to reopen, and businesses call their employees back to work, we now have a good view of the initial wave of workplace litigation arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the largest category of claims that we have seen to date has been discrimination, bias, and retaliation lawsuits filed by individual plaintiffs. Typically, these complaints allege that an employee was terminated under the auspices of COVID-19, but in fact was terminated because of a protected characteristic (e.g. age, race, gender, etc.). For example, complaints have been filed in situations where an employer reduced their workforce and an older worker was selected to be part of the reduction, allegedly due to their age. Other suits assert that an employee was retaliated against for complaining about COVID-19 safety issues, or for following COVID-19 safety precautions, or for taking leave related to COVID-19. These individual lawsuits, especially the wrongful termination and retaliation suits, are likely to continue as employees return to their physical places of work. 

The next largest category of workplace litigation we have seen in this initial wave involve allegations of an employer’s “failure to pay” its employees. These cases have been filed both as class actions and single-plaintiff claims. In the class context, plaintiffs typically allege that employers are not paying their employees for the time spent “donning and doffing” personal protective equipment (PPE), time spent procuring PPE, and time spent sanitizing PPE. These claims are also likely to become more prevalent as employers (rightfully) take additional precautions for the health and welfare of their workforces. Employers that are implementing health precautions at their workplaces will want to be sure that these precautions conform to wage and hour rules and regulation.

The WARN Act is a notable category in which some cases have been filed, but not as many as might have been expected at the outset of the pandemic. This may be a result of the fact that COVID-19 related layoffs and furloughs have not become permanent or have not lasted longer than six months, as required by the WARN Act. The longer businesses remain closed and the more challenges employers face reopening, however, the more likely it will become that former employees pursue claims under the federal WARN Act or its state law analogs. 

While not quantified on our tracker, in the last few weeks there has been a notable increase in the number of wage and hour class and collective actions filed around the country. Though these are not directly related to COVID-19 on their face based on the allegations in the complaints, it seems likely that the COVID-19 pandemic acted as an accelerant to these claims. Idle employees are more likely to reach out to an enterprising member of the plaintiff’s bar after seeing a targeted ad on social media, for example. The wave of workplace class and collective actions has likely not crested, and will only continue to gain momentum as some employees return to work only to find that the workplace has changed — while other employees are left behind. 

We hope you find the catalog of cases helpful. We will continue to provide updates twice each week as new cases are filed.  

Index

Cases are grouped by type of litigation. You may use these links to jump to a section.

Constitutional Rights

April 23, 2020
Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association, Inc. v. City of New York (Queens County Supreme Court)
Complaint filed on behalf of approximately 10,000 corrections officers alleging that their right to preserve their bodily integrity under the New York Constitution has been violated by the Department of Corrections’ practices of: (1) requiring corrections officers to work additional overtime shifts without adequate rest as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and (2) not requiring a negative COVID-19 test to return to work. 

Failure-to-Pay Claims 

May 19, 2020 
Sean Almeida v. Heated Details, Inc., Adrianna Lower Stephenson, Thomas Stephenson, and Chris Mika (State of Washington Superior Court)
The plaintiff pleads the defendants’ “willful refusal to pay him his wages and other compensation due under Washington and wage theft law” and his “wrongful discharge in violation of public policy.” Early in his employment, the plaintiff reportedly “was required to purchase certain products in order to perform the duties Heated Details required him to perform,” but was denied reimbursement then and on a continual basis. The plaintiff claims that the defendants “routinely failed to provide Plaintiff with a paystub or other basic payroll information,” and repeatedly failed to timely pay him wages owed, citing “cash-flow problems.” The plaintiff claims that, in mid-March 2020, he was notified that the defendants would not timely pay compensation owed, and that he should “seek unemployment benefits as per Washington State’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak.” The plaintiff reportedly took the position that the alleged wage nonpayment “preceded the outbreak and that applying for unemployment based on COVID-19 did not seem appropriate.” The plaintiff claims that in a conversation with his employer’s owner she indicated that she did not know when wages allegedly due would be paid, and that she did not commit to reimbursing him for allegedly due “unreimbursed business expenses.” According to the plaintiff, the defendants then threatened him with litigation when he sought unemployment benefits related to a COVID-19 layoff and closure. The plaintiff seeks allegedly due wages, exemplary damages, attorney fees, and other damages.

May 13, 2020
Kenneth England, on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated, v. United Airlines Inc. (Northern District of Illinois)
In this putative class-based contract action, the plaintiff, a shift manager at the company’s hub at Chicago O’Hare International Airport, claims that in exchange for federal paycheck protection funds, the airline agreed “it would not require any employee to take a temporary suspension or unpaid leave for any reason, it would not reduce the pay rate of any employee earning a salary or wages, and it would not reduce the benefits of any employee, until September 30, 2020.” Per plaintiff, two weeks after signing the agreement to receive PPP funds, the airline advised management and administration employees that they need to take 20 unpaid days off under the airline’s Unpaid Time Off Program, between May 16, 2020, and Sept. 30, 2020. The plaintiff asserts that the airline communicated via electronic mail that the CARES Act assistance “only covers a part of [the airline’s] payroll costs.” The plaintiff seeks compensatory and other damages for himself and the putative class, costs, interest, and attorney and expert fees.

May 7, 2020
Evans, et al. v. Dart, et al. (Northern District of Illinois)
Plaintiffs, correctional officers working for Cook County, Illinois, assert a hybrid class and collective action under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act (IWPCA). Plaintiffs allege that the county failed to pay them regular or overtime wages for the time they spent at the beginning and end of their shifts sanitizing themselves, their uniforms, and their personal protective equipment, all of which was required in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Plaintiffs allege that these activities, which were uncompensated, took approximately 20-30 minutes each shift. 

May 5, 2020
McGhee v. Postmates Inc. (San Francisco County, California)
Corbin v. DoorDash, Inc.
(San Francisco County, California)
Class action complaints brought by the same attorneys on behalf of all gig economy workers working for defendants in the state of California, alleging that defendant violated California AB 5 by misclassifying gig economy workers as independent contractors. The complaints allege that the plaintiffs and putative class members were therefore denied, among other things, reimbursement for expenses (including masks and hand sanitizer), and denied payment for all time worked (including time spent procuring masks and hand sanitizer). These virtually identical class action complaints allege in great detail the extent of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the nature of California’s response, as well as the safety guidelines issued by the state and federal agencies. The complaints go on to allege that the defendants failed to protect these gig economy workers by failing to mandate safe practices in light of COVID-19. As a result, in addition to wage and hour California class action claims derived from defendants’ response to COVID-19, each complaint also asserts class claims for public nuisance. 

April 24, 2020
Ferrante v. Ratner Companies (Broward County Circuit Court) (See related case, Olsen v. Ratner Companies dba Hair Cuttery, et al.)
Class action complaint alleging that hair salons ceased operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and that the closing occurred during a pay period. The plaintiffs allege that they were not paid for hours already worked during the pay period prior to the salons closing. 

April 23, 2020
Mabry v. Texas South Operating Company Inc. and Michael J Maye (Harris County District Court)
Plaintiff alleges a variety of claims under the Texas Labor Code and Texas common law related to failure to pay for work performed prior to being laid off due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Plaintiff claims she is owed approximately $70,000 for work done prior to her layoff.

April 21, 2020
Hand v. Carolina Scales, Inc. (Lexington County, South Carolina)
Plaintiff alleges that her employer failed to pay regular, overtime, and sick time wages owed to her under the South Carolina Payment of Wages Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, and the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)). Plaintiff asserts that her employer refused to allow her to return to work because she was infected with what her doctors believe is COVID-19, and she cannot obtain a test demonstrating that she is no longer infected. As a result, she states that she has been constructively terminated and is owed back wages for overtime previously worked, as well as for the time she was required to self-quarantine. 

April 16, 2020
Carcamo v. CMC Contractors, LLC (Miami-Dade County Circuit Court)
Plaintiff alleges that he has not been given termination pay to which he is entitled under an employment contract. Plaintiff alleges that he was first told he was being terminated “due to limited work during the [COVID-19 pandemic],” but that his employer later claimed he had been terminated for cause. Plaintiff alleges that the employer provided false reasons for his termination, and that the reasons given to not meet the employment contract’s definition of “cause.”

April 7, 2020
Olsen v. Ratner Companies dba Hair Cuttery, et al. (District of New Jersey)
Class action complaint alleging that hair salons ceased operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and that the closing occurred during a pay period. The plaintiffs allege that they were not paid for hours already worked during the pay period prior to the salons closing. 

Family and Medical Leave Act

May 14, 2020
Rocco Benedetto v. Action Rentals of FLL, LLC, et al. (Southern District of Florida)
The plaintiff alleges FMLA interference and retaliation.  The plaintiff alleges that he “suffers from anatomic asplenia and functioning immunosuppression,” and that he reported to his employer that he was thus “at least ten (10) times more vulnerable than the average individual to contract” COVID-19. The complaint alleges that the plaintiff had a 103.4 degree fever, and provided his employer medical documentation advising him to quarantine for three to 14 days. The plaintiff asserts that two days after he sought to take medical leave, he was terminated. Plaintiff claims that the temporal proximity of his request and his termination creates the presumption that his employer retaliated against him for seeking to exercise his FMLA rights. 

May 8, 2020
Hockersmith v. Elmcroft by Eclipse Senior Living (Western District of Kentucky)
The plaintiff, a former area human resources director, alleges FMLA interference and retaliation claims, as well as disability discrimination under the Kentucky Civil Rights Act. The plaintiff alleges that when she became sick with flu-like symptoms while conducting a sexual harassment investigation for defendant in mid-February 2020, her supervisor refused to allow her to take a sick day, instead demanding that she complete the investigation. After her symptoms worsened to include serious coughing and breathing issues, the plaintiff was advised by her doctor on March 13, 2020 to self-quarantine for seven days, which she did. Following a check-in call with her supervisor, during which the plaintiff coughed continuously, the plaintiff alleges her supervisor placed her on leave and locked her out of the company’s systems. The plaintiff says she then went back to her doctor on March 24, 2020, and notwithstanding the lack of available tests, her “doctor admitted that she most likely had COVID-19” and advised her to extend her self-quarantine period to 14 days. The plaintiff says she then requested FMLA leave, and that her supervisor did not respond to her request. After the plaintiff completed her period of self-quarantine, and attempted to return to work, the plaintiff was still unable to access any work-related programs. Later that day, the plaintiff says her supervisor terminated her employment, telling her (for the first time) that her performance was unsatisfactory.   

May 1, 2020
Angela M. Connor v. Professional Medical Billing, Inc. (Northern District of Indiana) 
Plaintiff seeks “damages under FMLA/FFCRA,” as well as “declaratory and injunctive relief.” Plaintiff alleges that her daughter’s school and daycare closed as a result of COVID-19 and that Plaintiff was forced to stay home with her child, whom Plaintiff also claims had serious health conditions. Plaintiff alleges that she notified her employer of the need for leave under FMLA/FFCRA, but did not receive the requested approval for paid leave. Plaintiff alleges, among other things, that she was asked to explain why she could not perform her billing duties remotely. According to Plaintiff, she could not “both work and watch her child at home.”

April 9, 2020
Ennin v. EFC Trade, Inc. (Southern District of Ohio)
Plaintiff alleges FMLA retaliation and interference. Plaintiff, a financial aid officer, was informed that she was being furloughed in connection with COVID-19. The plaintiff alleges that she was actually furloughed in retaliation for taking FMLA leave, and that the defendant interfered with her right to reinstatement by failing to reinstate her to her same or a substantially similar position upon her return from FMLA-protected leave.

Misclassification

March 12, 2020
Verhines v. Uber Technologies Inc. (San Francisco County, California); Rogers v. Lyft, Inc. (San Francisco County, California)
Class action complaints against Uber and Lyft, respectively, allege that because drivers were misclassified as independent contractors (pursuant to California Assembly Bill 5), they have been improperly deprived of necessary paid sick time under the California Labor Code to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.

WARN Act

May 6, 2020
Smith, et al. v. Ideal Image Development Corporation, et al. (St. Louis County, Missouri)
Six plaintiffs, who worked in sales for a medical spa, allege that defendants failed to pay them commissions owed and failed to provide notice under Missouri’s WARN Act when they were laid off as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

April 30, 2020
Green v. The Hertz Corporation (Middle District Florida)
Class action brought by employees who were allegedly terminated in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic. The complaint alleges that the while the employer previously furloughed employees, the plaintiffs were given no advance notice prior to their terminations, purportedly in violation of the WARN Act.

April 16, 2020
Scott & Seales v. Hooters III Inc. (Middle District Florida)
Class action on behalf of 679 Florida employees who were allegedly terminated in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic. The plaintiffs allege that no advance notice was given prior to their termination, purportedly in violation of the WARN Act.

Workplace Safety

May 13, 2020
Flores v. Built Brands, LLC (Utah County, Utah)
The plaintiff, a production line worker for a nutritional supplement manufacturer, alleges she contracted COVID-19 when her employer remained open for operations despite being aware that workers on the production line contracted COVID-19, and other employees expressed concerns about reporting to work. The plaintiff alleges that her employer inflicted harm upon her by failing, among other things, to: (1) follow all applicable government-issues safety rules; (2) cease business operations; (3) provide employees PPE; (4) have adequate policies and procedures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at their facilities; (5) adequately sanitize the facilities; and (6) heed employees’ safety warnings. The plaintiff seeks damages for, among other things “emotional pain, great physical pain ... past and future medical expenses ... permanent impairment, diminished earning capacity, lost wages, past and future household services, diminished life expectancy,” and punitive damages.

May 7, 2020
Jane Doe v. Hillstone Restaurant Group Inc. dba R&D Kitchen (Northern District of Texas)
In a case removed to federal court from Dallas County Court, the Plaintiff, a kitchen worker, alleges that she was informed she would be removed from the schedule and would not be permitted to return to work at the reopened restaurant unless “she agreed to work without a face covering.” The plaintiff alleges that she was informed that the restaurant would be re-opening following the Governor’s executive order permitting restaurants to allow limited dine-in services, but that “the company was prohibiting employees from wearing masks or face coverings while at work.” The plaintiff seeks a TRO enjoining the employer from prohibiting employees from wearing face coverings and putting the plaintiff back her prior schedule.

May 5, 2020
Paterson Custodial & Maintenance Association v. Paterson Board of Education (Passaic County, New Jersey)
Plaintiff, a labor union, filed a lawsuit on behalf of its members against a local board of education seeking injunctive and declaratory relief, alleging that the defendant had violated the state emergency order pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic. The plaintiff union alleged that the board of education violated the order by requiring its members to return to work on a full-time basis to perform their regular, non-essential duties. The plaintiff union alleges that the board’s disregard for the order places it members, many of whom are older and have pre-existing conditions, at risk of contracting COVID-19.

Wrongful Termination, Retaliation and Bias

May 25, 2020
Gavilanes v. Lusardi Ltd., et al. (Queens County, New York)
The plaintiff was employed as a cook at Lusardi, a restaurant in New York. The plaintiff alleges that he was told to go home until further notice after he coughed in front of a supervisor. He alleges that even after two weeks with no symptoms of COVID-19, he was told that he should not come back to work, and that his final paycheck was in the mail. The plaintiff brings a claim for discrimination in violation of the New York City Administrative Code, as well as various claims for wage and hour violations. 

Jackson v. Midnight Express Power Boats, Inc. (Southern District of Florida) 
The plaintiff, a former employee of a powerboat-building company, alleges that he was unlawfully discharged in violation of the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA) (part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act). The plaintiff claims, that “[f]or his own safety and that of those around him,” he needed to leave work due to experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. The plaintiff requested sick leave while self-quarantining, and was terminated. Given the temporal proximity of his request for leave and his termination, the plaintiff claims that the defendant employer retaliated against him for attempting to seek leave under the EPSLA. 

May 22, 2020
Collins v. ASO Safety Solutions (Morris County, New Jersey)
The plaintiff, a shop foreman, alleges he was terminated in violation of the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act. The plaintiff alleges that while he was on vacation for a week, his employer instituted a new policy regarding a two-week self-quarantine for employees who had recently traveled. Upon return from his vacation, the plaintiff self-quarantined for two weeks, and during that time, the plaintiff alleges that he “was aware from co-workers that [his employer] had not implemented safeguards to protect employees from COVID.” As a result, the plaintiff advised his employer that “he was not coming back to work after self-quarantine for fear of being infected and potentially exposing his elderly mother….” The plaintiff alleges that “he was asked to reconsider returning to work or resign from his position,” in response to which the plaintiff advised his employer that he had no plan of resigning. The plaintiff subsequently requested leave under the CARES Act in order to care for his nephew, and was subsequently terminated. The plaintiff also alleges that he was retaliated against for “voicing his concerns about what the plaintiff believed to be violations of the law and Executive Orders engaged in by” his employer.

Morales v. Sunrise Meats, Inc., et al. (Southern District of Florida)
The plaintiff, an hourly employee working in various positions, including butcher, alleges the defendant employer, a convenience store and butcher shop, terminated him for complaining about the employer’s failure to follow safety guidelines promulgated by the CDC due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The plaintiff claims that by failing to follow CDC guidelines, the defendant employer violated OSHA regulations, and the plaintiff’s complaint to the employer was therefore protected activity under Florida’s whistleblower law. Notably, the plaintiff also includes FLSA collective action claims on behalf of similarly-situated hourly employees, for the defendant’s alleged failure to pay overtime wages.

May 21, 2020
Spells v. Physician and Tactical Healthcare Services LLC dba Paths LLC (District of New Jersey)
The plaintiff, a Medicare billing specialist, alleges that he was wrongfully terminated in violation of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). The plaintiff alleges that he informed his employer when he was instructed by a doctor to self-quarantine for 14 days after he began to experience symptoms, “some of which resembled COVID-19 symptoms.” The plaintiff claims that the defendant employer refused to provide him with paid sick leave, and “advised him that filing for unemployment benefits would be ‘better than taking sick leave.’” After he tested negative for COVID-19, the plaintiff sought permission to return to work in a remote capacity (as most other employees had allegedly been permitted to do), but that the defendant employer claimed that his “position does not allow the work from home option.” The plaintiff claims he has not been returned to work, despite being medically cleared to do so, and alleges that “he was terminated from his employment and not rehired with Defendant . . . as a result of his requests for paid sick leave under the FFCRA/FLSA.”

May 20, 2020
Andrea Hinich v. Norwood Life Society, Inc, et al. (Cook County, Illinois)
The plaintiff, an assistant director of nursing, claims wrongful termination in violation of Illinois’s Nursing Home Care Act and Whistleblower Act, and retaliation in violation of public policy. The plaintiff alleges that she raised serious safety issues related to COVID-19 that were “disregarded and ignored by her supervisors.” The plaintiff claims that after she refused to “work under conditions which contravened government-mandated safety guidance,” she was terminated without warning, purportedly for “insubordination.”

Kraemer v. Golding Radiology, Ltd. (Washoe County, Nevada)
The plaintiff, a radiologist, seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, and money damages, for breach of his employment and shareholder agreement. The plaintiff alleges that when his relationship with the CEO began to deteriorate, the plaintiff tried to amicably sever ties with his employer and discussed with the president possible job opportunities he was examining, and the impact of the non-compete provision in his employment agreement. The plaintiff alleges that he was subsequently terminated “for cause” after this discussion. The plaintiff claims that the “termination ‘for cause’ coincide[d] with a significant drop in volume of work during the COVID-19 pandemic,” and the "for cause" designation “was pretextual, as [plaintiff’s] services were no longer needed due to the drop in volume [of work] and his termination was a way to save money by avoiding having to pay [plaintiff’s] severance package.”

Bryant v. Gray Construction Inc. (Multnomah County, Oregon)
The plaintiff, a temporary employee who worked as a temperature taker at a construction site during the COVID-19 pandemic, alleges that the defendant discriminated against her and retaliated against her because she reported to the defendant information she believed to be in violation of a state or federal law, rule or regulation. As part of its COVID-19 screening process, the defendant construction company required employees to have their temperatures taken before being allowed entry to the construction site. The plaintiff alleges she reported that the defendant was allowing employees to enter the construction site in violation of safety rules, including use of faulty thermometers. Specifically, the plaintiff says she was directed to allow employees to enter the construction site under the following circumstances: (1) the thermometer malfunctioned and did not take a reading; (2) the thermometer read 100.4° or higher on the first reading, at which point she was directed to re-take the temperature behind the ear to obtain a lower reading; and (3) employees were instructed to place cold drinks on their heads before having their temperature taken to get a lower reading. The plaintiff also alleges she reported that employees were entering the construction site without wearing required masks. The plaintiff alleges the defendant told the temporary agency she worked for that it wanted to “go in a different direction,” which resulted in her termination.

May 19, 2020
Carnival v. Jim’s Towing Service, Inc. (Kern County, California)
The plaintiff, a tow truck driver, claims wrongful termination in violation of California public policy and California Labor Code Sections 232.5, 1102.5(b) and 6301(a)(1). He alleges that his employer ordered one of its tow truck drivers to pick up a motorist whose wife had COVID-19 and who was himself a “likely carrier of COVID-19.” The plaintiff alleges that upon learning of that dispatch by reviewing records, he discussed the assignment with his fellow employees, and “disclosed to his co-employees and [the director of towing] that [the defendant employer] failed to do everything reasonably necessary to protect the life, health, and safety of its employees.” The plaintiff claims he told the director of towing that the employer should have told the other tow truck drivers that a driver was dispatched to assist a motorist who likely had COVID-19. The plaintiff alleges that in response, the director of towing fired the plaintiff for discussing working conditions with his fellow employees, for complaining of unsafe working conditions, and for reporting violations of law.  

Troy v. Mark Kriwinsky DDS, Inc., et al. (Northern District of Ohio)
The plaintiff, a dental assistant, alleges that the dentist she worked for refused to follow the health and safety regulations imposed by Ohio’s governor in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The plaintiff claims she complained about the company’s refusal to follow the restrictions put in place, and was given the option to take a leave of absence until the company was permitted to reopen for dental procedures. When the plaintiff sought to return from the leave of absence, she was allegedly told that the company would “stay with the staff [they had].” The plaintiff brings a claim for wrongful termination in violation of public policy, as well as unrelated claims for failure to pay overtime.

May 18, 2020
Gasper v. Mack Industries (Medina County, Ohio)
The plaintiffs, book keepers and a receptionist at a concrete manufacturing and supply business, allege wrongful termination in violation of Ohio law. The plaintiffs claim that their employer falsely explained that they were being terminated in connection with a “reorganization of job positions to consolidate one or more positions with the same or similar responsibilities because of  change in business conditions” arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic. The plaintiffs allege that the true reason for their terminations was to replace them with younger, less-qualified employees, in violation of Ohio RC 4112.02(A).

May 15, 2020
Sarah Cusick v. Medstar Health Inc. and Washington Hospital Center Corporation (Superior Court, District of Columbia)
The plaintiff (a self-described “accomplished student and young professional”) claims that she was wrongfully terminated from her position as a hearing and speech assistant after she “reported and protested the failure of senior managers, including her supervisors, to ensure that the Hospital’s patients, staff, and visitors were properly protected against exposure [to COVID-19].” In her role at the defendant hospital, the plaintiff conducted newborn hearing screenings; assisted diagnostic tests on inpatients and outpatients; and performed administrative office support functions. In her complaint, the plaintiff broadly presents her critical analysis of – and concerns about – the hospital’s patient screening, access, scheduling, distancing, and processing protocols; personal protective equipment; and sanitation processes (at the beginning of the pandemic). In her complaint, she admits that, in mid-March 2020, she uploaded video of the hospital cafeteria, “directing her post to the Twitter accounts of [the Mayor] and the Hospital” with a request that the mayor’s executive order be amended to cover public areas of medical facilities, which the plaintiff opined posed safety risk. Two days later, the plaintiff again sleuthed with her personal cell phone, recording herself entering the hospital and passing through the front desk without being screened. The plaintiff then “walked to another entrance… and requested to record a conversation with a security guard about check-in procedures.” The plaintiff uploaded these two videos to Twitter (with commentary) and tagged the hospital’s Twitter account. After a discussion with coworkers about potentially rescheduling non-emergent patient appointments, the plaintiff “tweeted an update that MedStar was finally in the process of updating its rescheduling protocol for non-emergent patients.” That day she recorded and posted new video of the hospital’s cafeteria, with commentary. The plaintiff claims that shortly after these social media posts, she was asked to meet with management and was told that she had violated her “social media contract” and had violated patient and employee rights by uploading videos of patients’ and physicians’ faces. The plaintiff reportedly advised management that, “as a last resort to get management’s attention to … time-sensitive issues, she had turned to social media.” The plaintiff claims wrongful discharge in violation of public policy and requests compensatory and consequential damages, punitive damages, and attorney fees. 

Evans v. Kast Construction Company LLC (Southern District of Florida)
The plaintiff, a former interior superintendent at a construction company, alleges that he was unlawfully discharged in violation of the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA) (part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)). The plaintiff alleges that the defendant gave him no “reasons for his termination, except that he was not a good fit.” The plaintiff claims that the actual reason he was terminated was “for taking leave in accordance with the FFCRA/EPSLA when Plaintiff was unable to work (or telework) due to a need for leave because he was subject to a State and local quarantine and/or isolation order related to COVID-19.” Thus, the plaintiff alleges an unlawful discharge. 

May 13, 2020
Shuttleworth v. Eriez Manufacturing Co. (Erie County, Pennsylvania)
The plaintiff, the CEO of a manufacturing company, claims wrongful termination in violation of Pennsylvania public policy. He alleges that the employer’s owner and chairman of the board repeatedly insisted that the company remain open and “put the burden on the Commonwealth to force [the defendant] to close,” despite a Pennsylvania executive order that required the closure of all “non-life-sustaining businesses.” The plaintiff alleges that to comply with the executive order, he made a good-faith determination that the company was not a life-sustaining business, and was required to close. The plaintiff claims he was terminated as a result by the board of directors based on his attempt to comply with the executive order and temporarily close the business.

Boshell v. Paul Phillips, et al. (Somerset County, New Jersey)
The plaintiff, a former employee who has asthma, alleges various violations of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination and wrongful termination in violation of the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act. The plaintiff alleges that as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the related executive orders issued by the governor of New Jersey, the defendant closed two of its offices and placed employees on furlough. After the defendant applied for and received a loan through the Payroll Protection Program, the plaintiff alleges that the defendant instructed all employees, including the plaintiff, to return to work on April 27, 2020. The plaintiff claims she was concerned about returning to work because of a lack of appropriate safety precautions in dealing with patients, a lack of PPE, and because of her underlying medical condition, which put her in a high risk category for contracting COVID-19. After the plaintiff spoke to her supervisor about her concerns, the plaintiff says she sent a follow-up email to her supervisor and Dr. Phillips, an individual defendant, requesting that she be allowed to remain on furlough or be placed on leave. The plaintiff also asked in the email, “who’s going to be responsible for medical bills/supporting my family? If something fatal happens, is the office responsible for it?” The plaintiff alleges that following this email, Dr. Phillips told her that he was terminating her employment due to her requests, inquiries, complaints and objections and because she threatened him with liability.  

Lula Jones, CNA v. Life Care Centers of America, Inc. d/b/a Life Care Center Jacksonville (Middle District of Florida)
The plaintiff, a CNA at a Florida nursing home, alleges that she was terminated in violation of the Florida Whistleblower Protection Act and the federal Civil Rights Act of 1886. In addition to showing the executive director photographs that allegedly demonstrated “medication errors, patient neglect and the deplorable living conditions,” the plaintiff claims she complained about the purported lack of COVID-19 preparedness. The plaintiff alleges that the nursing home was hoarding PPE, and instructed the plaintiff and other staff to wear “used” cloth scarves instead of suitable masks. The plaintiff claims that after the nursing home implemented temperature checks, she was “singled out,” because she was required to pay out of pocket for COVID-19 testing despite her temperature purportedly being “just fine.” The plaintiff also alleges that her discharge (for attendance issues in 2019) was a pretext.

Fuente-Alba et al. v. Cork Alliance Inc. (Miami-Dade County, Florida)
The plaintiffs, a chief operating officer and a director of finance and accounting, allege that the defendant, a “worldwide wine distributor,” breached their employment contracts. The plaintiffs allege that the defendant, “citing COVID-19 concerns,” reduced one plaintiff’s salary by 50%, and subsequently terminated both five-year employment contracts before their expirations. The plaintiffs allege that the defendant used “the COVID-19 outbreak as an excuse to unlawfully back out of its obligations,” despite the fact that “wine sales have skyrocketed,” and “[i]n a sense, the wine distribution industry has actually benefited from the changed conditions.”

May 12, 2020
Edwin Rios v. Table Tek (Montgomery County, Pennsylvania)
The plaintiff, a crew leader in charge of assembling and maintaining pool tables, claims wrongful termination in violation of public policy and the governor’s Business Closure Order. The plaintiff alleges that his employer ordered him to drive a small, unmarked van and to “stay under the radar” while servicing clients, despite having typically driven a company van with a logo. After the plaintiff contacted his sales manager to voice his concerns that he “was being ordered to work illegally in defiance of COVID-19 Orders,” he was directed to return to work and terminated.  

May 11, 2020
Metzger v. Iowa Dermatology Clinic, P.L.C., et al. (Dallas County, Iowa)
Stocker v. Iowa Dermatology Clinic, P.L.C., et al.
(Polk County, Iowa)
In similar complaints, the plaintiffs, an advanced registered nurse practitioner and a dermatologist, allege wrongful termination and breach of their employment contracts, in violation of Iowa law. The complaints allege that the defendant employer terminated the plaintiffs for “a pretextual ‘Cause’.” The complaints also allege that the defendant clinics “encouraged employees, including the Plaintiff, to continue to see patients in person in hopes of avoiding interruption in revenue,” despite “governmental restrictions and guidelines,” and the plaintiffs claim that their terminations were in response to “attempts to follow . . . governmental restrictions and guidelines [regarding the COVID-19 pandemic] and refusal to violate them.”  

May 8, 2020
Kopit v. Beachwood Commons Assisted Living Ltd.; LifeServices Management Corporation (Ohio Court of Common Pleas, Cuyahoga County) 
After her resignation, the plaintiff, a former senior living counselor in an assisted living facility, alleges that the defendants “wrongfully terminated” her “in violation of public policy.” The plaintiff criticized defendants response to COVID-19 and claims that she requested “prudent alterations to her working conditions, in an effort to limit her exposure and the risk to both her and her immunocompromised husband.” The plaintiff’s husband was described as a “cancer survivor” who, with his age and medical history, was in a category of “heightened morbidity and mortality risks from COVID-19.” The plaintiff reportedly sought to work remotely, a request she says was denied. The plaintiff claims that she “did what any reasonable employee would do under the circumstances and resigned from her employment with Defendants.” The plaintiff seeks reinstatement, monetary damages, and attorney fees.

May 7, 2020
Crider v. Lute Supply, Co. (Boone County, Kentucky)
The plaintiff, a manager, alleges he was wrongfully terminated. He alleges that he requested intermittent leave for jury duty and to take care of his children amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The plaintiff claims that his employer initially granted his request, but that he then received a series of text messages from his supervisor harassing him about taking leave for jury duty and to care of his children during the COVID-19 pandemic, and that he was subsequently terminated in violation of Kentucky law, the Emergency Family Medical Leave Act and the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act.  

May 7, 2020
Kanyuk v. Shearman & Sterling LLP (Southern District of New York)
Plaintiff, the Manager of Facilities and A/V and a 25-year employee at the defendant law firm, alleges wrongful termination and age discrimination in violation of New York law. The defendant employer explained that the plaintiff was terminated due to being “accused of receiving kickbacks from vendors.” The plaintiff claims that no details were provided, that he had no opportunity to defend himself, and that his employer “either made up the existence of the allegations or that they knew the allegations were likely false.” Plaintiff alleges that he was second oldest employee in his department, and claims that the defendant employer’s proffered reasons for his termination were “clearly a pretext for their plan to terminate their older employee in the face of the [COVID-19] business downturn.”

May 7, 2020
McIntyre v. Midwest Geriatrics, Inc. (Douglas County, Nebraska)
Plaintiff, a medical technician at an assisted living facility, was infected with COVID-19 and alleges that she was wrongfully terminated by her employer in retaliation for attempting to take time off of work under the FMLA, due to her infection. She states that her employer claimed that she had spread COVID-19 throughout the facility. Plaintiff alleges that her employer told her that she was terminated for not wearing a mask while caring for sick residents, but plaintiff asserts that she did not wear a mask because no masks were made available by her employer. Plaintiff further alleges violations of the FLSA, Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), and Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA), claiming that, prior to her termination, her employer failed to pay her for time she took off to self-quarantine.

May 5, 2020
Long v. Baptist Healthcare Systems, Inc. (Whitley County, Kentucky)
Plaintiff, a registered nurse (who was also pregnant), alleges that she was terminated when she sought workers’ compensation after quarantining herself due to possible exposure to COVID-19. Plaintiff alleges that she was terminated by her employer in order to avoid her workers’ compensation claim. Plaintiff also alleges that she was terminated, “as a means to reduce the nursing staff during COVID-19 due to a reduction in elective procedure and emergency room usage and to conceal its deficiencies in protecting its employees.” 

May 4, 2020
Fulmore v. City of Englewood, et al. (Bergen County Superior Court, New Jersey)
Plaintiff, who identifies himself as a public works employee, a union steward, and an associate minister for a church, claims retaliation and discrimination and purports to bring claims under the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act and federal and states civil rights statutes. Plaintiff claims that he was treated with “hostility” after he complained that the defendant city “was not providing the employees in the [Department of Public Works] with proper safety equipment and was not properly isolating/quarantining the employees.” Plaintiff also claims that a defendant supervisor “improperly and unlawfully disclosed the name of the individual who had tested positive for COVID-19 to Plaintiff.” Per Plaintiff, among other things, his supervisor told him (and not others) to self-isolate due to exposure to a coworker diagnosed with COVID-19. Plaintiff also claims that another supervisor disclosed “Plaintiff’s confidential and private health information [the fact of requested self-quarantining] to the pastor of [the church at which Plaintiff serves as an associate minister].” Plaintiff requests compensatory, punitive and emotional distress damages and other relief.

May 4, 2020
McClendon v. USA Vinyl, LLC (Franklin County, Ohio)
Plaintiff, a quality control supervisor, alleges that he was discharged in violation of the FMLA, an Ohio disability discrimination law, and Ohio public policy. Plaintiff alleges he was discharged after he informed defendant that he had been in close contact with a person who had been diagnosed with COVID-19 and that his doctor ordered him to self-quarantine for 14 days because he could not be tested for COVID-19. Plaintiff alleges that defendant “told him he was being discharged for reporting his proximity to a COVID-19 sufferer.”

May 4, 2020
Perrella v. Railroad Group, LLC, et al. (Burlington County, New Jersey)
Plaintiff, an “Accounts Payable/Assistant Controller,” alleges that defendants retaliated against her in violation of the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. Plaintiff, who alleges she is a high risk individual for COVID-19 because she suffers from several auto-immune disorders, claims she was terminated after raising concerns about defendants’ plans to take precautions against COVID-19 and complaining that she was forced to work in violation of a state shutdown order.

May 1, 2020
Korloff v. Barclay Water Management, Inc., et al. (Monmouth County New Jersey)
Plaintiff, a “Safe Delivery Specialist,” brings claims including disability discrimination, failure to accommodate, failure to engage in the interactive process, retaliation, and wrongful termination. He alleges that he suffered from a compromised immune system and his doctor provided a note that he should avoid working in the field, but that defendants refused to accommodate him. Plaintiff alleges that when his wife tested positive for COVID-19, he refused to attend work per his doctor’s orders and for the “health, safety, and welfare” of his coworkers. Plaintiff alleges he was laid off as a result and was told he “was not covered for paid leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.”

May 1, 2020
Lange v. Progressive Broadcasting Systems Inc. dba WFRN Radio (Elkhart County, Indiana)
Plaintiff, a 22-year sales representative for a Christian radio station, alleges wrongful termination in violation of public policy. Plaintiff alleges the defendant’s operations are “non-essential,” and that in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and an order from Indiana’s governor, she informed her employer of her intention to work from home. Plaintiff claims that in response, her work was transferred “to a colleague who intended to disobey the governor’s stay at home order,” and she was terminated.

April 30, 2020
Rivera v. Hovione, LLC, et al. (Burlington County, New Jersey)
Plaintiff, a Mechanical Technician with a pharmaceutical company, alleges wrongful termination, retaliation, and violation of New Jersey’s Conscientious Employee Protection Act. Plaintiff alleges he was terminated as a result of his complaints about a lack of PPE and proper prevention and screening for COVID-19.

April 30, 2020
Jaramillo v. Martin Hicks, et al. (Cibola County, New Mexico)
Plaintiff, the City Manager for the City of Grants, New Mexico, alleges that defendants violated the New Mexico Whistleblower Protection Act. Plaintiff claims that the Mayor of the City ordered her to keep a City-owned golf course open in violation of a public health order put in place as a result of COVID-19. Plaintiff alleges that when she protested and refused, she was terminated.

April 30, 2020
Kristy v. Costco Wholesale Corporation, et al. (Santa Clara County, California)
Plaintiff, a meat cutter, brings numerous causes of action including disability discrimination, harassment, wrongful termination/constructive discharge, infliction of emotional distress, invasion of privacy, and defamation. He alleges that his coworkers and supervisors called him names and falsely accused him of having contracted COVID-19, and refused to work with him. Plaintiff alleges that the behavior was so severe that he was constructively terminated.

April 24, 2020
Dozier v. City of Jasper (Northern District of Alabama)
Plaintiff, a laborer with the City of Jasper’s Parks and Recreation Department, brings a claim for interference with the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act. Plaintiff alleges that she requested 12 weeks of leave to care for her children, whose schools were closed as a result of COVID-19, but the City refused her request and terminated her employment.

April 23, 2020
Reggio v. Tekin & Associates, LLC (County of Dallas, Texas)
Plaintiff alleges wrongful termination in violation of the public policy of the State of Texas. Plaintiff, who lives in Dallas County but works in Collin County, alleges she was terminated after she refused to violate a Dallas County shelter-in-place order that purportedly made it unlawful for her to travel to work in another county.

April 22, 2020
Milanes v. Alaris Health, LLC (Hudson County, New Jersey)
Plaintiff, a nurse, alleges retaliation and whistleblower claims under New Jersey law, as well as battery and fraud, against her former employer, a long-term care facility. Plaintiff, who contracted COVID-19 while working at the defendant nursing home facility, asserts that she was terminated after notifying local public health authorities of the defendant’s attempts to cover-up the spread of COVID-19 at the facility, as well as defendant’s failure to provide PPE to the staff.

April 22, 2020
Chapman v. Alaris Health, LLC (Hudson County, New Jersey)
A companion case to Milanes, Plaintiff, a nurses’ assistant, alleges that she was wrongfully discharged in violation of public policy, and in violation of state whistleblower law. Plaintiff alleges that despite testing positive for COVID-19, defendant terminated her for not returning to work.

April 22, 2020
Frunzi v. MEI Group (Tarrant County, Texas)
Plaintiff alleges that he was his termination amounted to disability, age, and race discrimination, among other forms of discrimination, pursuant to the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act. Plaintiff states that he has a preexisting lung condition, of which the defendant employer was aware, and requested an accommodation in the form of working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Plaintiff alleges that he gave his employer a doctor’s note recommending stating that he was at a heightened risk for COVID-19 because of his lung condition, and that the defendant terminated him the next day.

April 21, 2020
Woolslayer v. Driscoll (Western District of Pennsylvania)
Plaintiff alleges retaliation under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against the President of Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Plaintiff alleges that he was terminated in retaliation for informing other employees of the University where he worked that a colleague’s family member had been infected with COVID-19.

April 21, 2020
Benavides v. Board of Regents of the University of Michigan, et al. (Washtenaw County, Michigan)
Plaintiff asserts disability discrimination claim under Michigan law. Plaintiff alleges that due to her possible infection with COVID-19, her supervisor and HR at the hospital where she worked advised her to not come to work until she received her COVID-19 test results. Plaintiff claims that despite this advice, after calling in sick for several days, the hospital terminated her for a “continued pattern of unscheduled absences.”

April 17, 2020
Andrews v. Andrews Hydra Platforms, Inc. (County of York, South Carolina)
Plaintiff alleges a violation of the federal Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)) and South Carolina Payment of Wages Act. Plaintiff alleges that she was terminated for seeking paid leave under the new federal law in order to take care of her children, whose school had been closed due to the pandemic.

April 16, 2020
Sizemore-Harvey v. Senior Haven LLC (Multnomah County, Oregon)
Plaintiff alleges state law whistleblower and sick leave retaliation claims against her former employer, an assisted living facility. Plaintiff claims she was terminated in violation of state law after she reported to defendants that she believed it was in violation state and federal safety rules by continuing to encourage elderly patients to continue group activities during the COVID-19 pandemic, and after she exercised her right to take available sick leave to self-quarantine.

April 14, 2020
Hartsuch v. Howard Young Medical Center & Jennie Larsen (Western District of Wisconsin) (Amended)
Plaintiff, a physician employed by a staffing agency and assigned at the defendant medical center, reportedly complained in March 2020 about policies of the medical center, regarding Particulate Respirator N95 facemasks and regarding the discharge of COVID-19 patients unable to self-isolate. He also reportedly communicated with the medical center about, among other things, the supply of N95 facemasks. Plaintiff claims that he was thereafter removed from the schedule and then discharged. Plaintiff alleges that defendants violated public policy and violated Wis. Stat. § 230.83, and that the individual defendant defamed him.

April 14, 2020
Thomas v. Franciscan Alliance, Inc. (Northern District of Illinois)
Plaintiff, an emergency room nurse who suffers from asthma and is immuno-suppressed, alleges she was fired in violation of the Illinois Whistleblower Act and the FMLA, in part due to having taken intermittent FMLA leave in the past. Plaintiff alleges she was assigned to a room that lacked negative air pressure, and was thus especially dangerous due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Plaintiff alleges that she requested safety precautions and PPE, but was subsequently fired.

April 13, 2020
Norris v. Schoppenhorst-Underwood & Brooks Funeral Home, LLC (Bullitt Circuit Court, Kentucky)
Plaintiff, the president of a funeral home, alleges she was terminated for attempting to comply with a public mandate intended to slow the spread of COVID-19. Plaintiff discussed with staff how to safely conduct funeral services and alleges that the owner of the funeral home terminated her employment after telling her that he was not going to limit the size of gatherings at funerals or implement more frequent cleaning and disinfecting.

April 9, 2020
Lynch v. Delisa Demolition (State of New Jersey, Monmouth Superior Court)
Plaintiff alleges that defendants wrongly terminated his employment in violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, N.J.S.A 10:5-1, et seq., where plaintiff was purportedly separated March 31, 2020, “two days before he was scheduled to return to work from a physician-ordered and government-mandated quarantine for symptoms consistent with the novel coronavirus.” Plaintiff claims wrongful discrimination based handicap and retaliation.

April 9, 2020
Michael Manwell v. Rochester Gear, Inc. (Eastern District of Michigan)
Plaintiff asserting wrongful termination where plaintiff was allegedly sent home after demonstrating symptoms possibly related to COVID-19. Plaintiff claims that by separating him on March 23, 2020, defendant violated the FMLA and public policy.

April 8, 2020
King v. Trader Joe’s East, Inc. (Jefferson Circuit Court, Kentucky)
Plaintiff alleges wrongful termination in violation of Kentucky public policy and various Kentucky statutes. Plaintiff alleges he was terminated because he complained about workplace safety regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, and made numerous requests to Trader Joe’s to implement safety measures in accordance with the Kentucky governor’s executive orders and CDC guidance.

April 7, 2020
Dent v. PruittHealth (State of South Carolina, County of Bamberg, Court of County Pleas)
Plaintiff, an LPN Charge Nurse whose employment purportedly ended on March 13, 2020, alleges that defendant violated S.C. Code Ann. Section 44-4-530(E) [“An employer may not fire, demote, or otherwise discriminate against an employee complying with an isolation or quarantine order…”] and “other mandates of public policy relating to the standard of nursing care in nursing home facilities.” Plaintiff was allegedly told to be off for 14 days after she reported possible exposure to a relative who had in turn possibly been exposed to COVID-19, and alleges she was then terminated.

April 3, 2020
Hanson v. Marshall County (Marshall County Circuit Court)
Plaintiff alleges wrongful discharge in violation of Kentucky public policy, and in violation of a Kentucky whistleblower law. Plaintiff alleges she was terminated from her 911 dispatch position for voicing concerns to her supervisor about the lack of protective measures to protect employees from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

April 2, 2020
Webster v. Tower Construction Management LLC (Leon County Circuit Court)
Plaintiff alleges that she was wrongfully terminated in violation of Florida’s Whistleblower Act. Plaintiff claims that she engaged in allegedly protected whistleblower activity when she requested a remote work accommodation in light of her and her daughter’s stated health conditions and concern for COVID-19 exposure, and that she was terminated as a result.

April 2, 2020
Guaypatin v. Olshan Realty LLC (Southern District of New York)
Plaintiff, a former assistant property manager, alleges violations under New York and federal law in connection with her termination. Plaintiff asserts that her employer claimed she was being terminated because her employer believed she had been potentially been exposed to COVID-19 through her daughter’s school. The plaintiff alleges her termination was pretext for national origin discrimination (Ecuadorian) and harassment in violation of the New York City Human Rights Law. Plaintiff also alleges that her employer deprived her of wages in violation of the New York Labor Code and the Fair Labor Standards Act by misclassifying her as exempt from overtime.

March 27, 2020
Robbie Payne and Erica Shaw v. Radio Communications Systems Inc. dba RCS Communications (Jefferson County Circuit Court)
Plaintiffs, a former warehouse manager and a former administrative assistant, allege that they were wrongfully terminated in violation of Kentucky public policy. Plaintiffs claim they were terminated because they raised health and safety concerns related to their employer’s obligations to mitigate COVID-19 exposure under the “general duties” provision of Kentucky’s Occupational Safety and Health Act. 

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