Since the Covid-19 pandemic started, the issue of the Employer’s responsibility to its employees has been much discussed, but no specific guidance has been provided by the State as to what is actually required by the Employer. Accordingly, this lack of direction has provided fertile grounds for attorneys to assert claims in the Courts.
Two recent cases have been filed in Illinois against Walmart, by the family of a deceased employee and against McDonalds by a group of employees. While Walmart case has had no substantive rulings, in the McDonald’s case, the Judge has ruled that the case can proceed. The Judge is allowing the employees to pursue its claims against McDonalds for endangering their safety by failing to provide sufficient personal protective equipment (gloves, masks & hand sanitizer), provide sufficient training, allow for proper social distancing, or notify employees when another employee tested positive for Covid-19.
While the Courts have yet to enter a final ruling on an employer’s liability for failing to provide proper safety measures to prevent and protect its employees from Covid-19, cases have been filed and more cases are expected.
In order to prepare a defense and possibly prevent this type of litigation, the Employer should take the following steps:
1) Familiarize and follow the Covid-19 Guidelines as provided by the State of Illinois, your local municipality and OSHA https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3990.pdf
2) Mandate that ALL employees sign in when entering the office or other work location, in which the employee affirms that no family/quarantine member is exhibiting any Covid-19 symptoms and has been following the guidelines for shelter-in-place and quarantining;
3) At the office/work location, provide all employees with the appropriate personal protective equipment, plexiglass partitions, hand sanitizers, training and social distancing;
4) Notify employees if another employee has tested positive for Covid-19, but do not identify the positive employee; and
5) If an employee is exhibiting any Covid-19 symptoms, immediately send the employee home and require a negative Covid-19 test before returning to work.