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Corona Lawsuit 5f11bf4c92ac6

Could You Get Sued Over COVID-19?

July 17, 2020
One law firm had identified around 50 lawsuits currently making their way into the court system. You are probably already providing sufficient personal protective equipment. Hopefully, you have also provided training and implemented good company policies.

When a very obese man contracted the coronavirus and later died, his family sued Walmart, his employer, for wrongful death.  Could this happen to you?

There have not been a lot of COVID-19 related lawsuits to date. In addition to Walmart, lawsuits have been filed against Amazon, McDonald’s, and Safeway. One law firm had identified around 50 lawsuits currently making their way into the court system.

Since fear of litigation might cause some business owners to hesitate to open back up, this would seem like an obvious opportunity for the government to step in a provide liability protection. However, the government is, of course, dysfunctional.  Senate Republicans are trying to pass legislation to provide protection for employers.  Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi isn’t buying.  She said, “I don’t think that at this time, with coronavirus, that there’s any interest in having any less protection for our workers.” 

The concern is that the current lawsuits are test cases.  Once the trial lawyers figure it out, it will be Katie bar the door.  Or, will it be Karen bar the door?

Speaking for employers, the National Association of Manufacturers’ General Counsel, Linda Kelly noted, “The fear of our members is that there’s kind of an effort to float some trial balloons and see what kind of claim is going to stick.  Once the path to success is kind of blazed, then more lawsuits will follow.” 

The Back-to-Normal-Barometer, a research study of Engagious, Sports and Leisure Research Group, and ROKK Solutions, found one out of three employees had a high probability of suing their employers if they got the coronavirus after returning to work.  And in the trades, our employees never stopped working! 

The same poll showed that liability releases are not likely to be very effective.  One out of four, “would be very likely to take legal action” despite signing a release.

If the thought of employee lawsuits is frightening, what about customers?  What if one of your employees becomes COVID positive and comes in contact with a customer, who catches the virus?  Contact tracing through phones might allow the customer to identify your employee as the possible source of contamination.

What can you do?  You are probably already providing sufficient personal protective equipment.  Do not let up. 

Hopefully, you have also provided training and implemented good company policies that align with the recommendations du jour of the Center for Disease Control.  For example, this is a mask-on month, not to be confused with the mask-off months.  Make sure your team knows which month it is.

Finally, you should perform daily employee health screenings.  In fact, daily employee health screenings are required in 20 states and recommended in another 16. 

Health screenings for a static building are one thing.  Everyone can be screened upon entry.  But for a mobile workforce, they are time consuming and laborious.  Plus, you must document the results and protect your employees’ privacy at the same time. 

Dave Squires and Online Access came up with the answer. Dave created CertiClear, a text-based system where each employee receives a text before the start of the work day. The text contains a link to a simple form with eight yes/no questions.  If the employee does not respond, another text is sent 15 minutes later.  Another one follows that.  Then, the employer is notified so the employee can be called directly.

By answering the questions, the employee is certifying that he or she is okay to work.  If the employee fails to clear the form, the instructions are to call a designated person at the office.  CertiClear works on exceptions, which is the least disruptive approach.  Plus, privacy is protected and all results are automatically stored.

Every contractor should use CertiClear or something similar.  The Service Roundtable considered it important enough to sponsor it for the industry, reducing the price from $2 per employee per month to $1.  Online Access cut the one-time setup fee from $50 to $25 for companies getting CertiClear through the Service Roundtable.  

Watch a video explaining CertiClear by clicking this link.  To take advantage of the Service Roundtable’s discount, click on the “Get CertiClear” link on the Service Roundtable home page.

There is a 30-day money-back guarantee with CertiClear so there is no risk.  But, operating without daily employee health screenings is a big risk.

Join the Service Roundtable at www.ServiceRoundtable.com to stay cutting edge with industry business practices.  Your $50 monthly membership gives you unlimited downloads from the industry’s broadest library of business forms, sales and marketing pieces, and more.  You also get a membership in Roundtable Rewards, the industry’s largest buying group, which makes the Service Roundtable a profit center for most members.

About the Author

Matt Michel | Chief Executive Officer

Matt Michel was a co-founder and CEO of the Service Roundtable (ServiceRoundtable.com). The Service Roundtable is an organization founded to help contractors improve their sales, marketing, operations, and profitability. The Service Nation Alliance is a part of this overall organization. Matt was inducted into the Contracting Business HVAC Hall of Fame in 2015. He is now an author and rancher.