- Walmart is being sued by the family of an Illinois employee who died after contracting COVID-19; the family is alleging Walmart did not do enough to protect its workers (Evans v. Walmart, Inc., No. 2020L003938 (Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, April 6, 2020)).
- According to the wrongful death complaint, Wando Evans and other Walmart employees contracted COVID-19 at work. The store allegedly failed to clean and sterilize the store properly, failed to promote and enforce social distancing guidelines, failed to provide personal protective equipment (PPE), and failed to address the health concerns of employees with COVID-19 symptoms and warn other workers.
- The family is seeking a jury trial. According to a media release from the plaintiff's lawyer, Evans is the second employee at that Walmart location to die of COVID-19; the firm is also requesting an investigation by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
The case reveals the potential for lawsuits alleging employer liability for employees' exposure to SARS-CoV-2.
Among other possible protections, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other anti-bias laws still apply during the pandemic, and employers are simultaneously encouraged to follow guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and other health authorities.
Given the extraordinary circumstances surrounding the novel coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is allowing employers — for the time being — to take the temperatures of on-site employees, even though this constitutes a medical exam.
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has issued multiple guidance resources for employers. A Wage and Hour Division guidance discusses, among other things, whether the Fair Labor Standards Act obligates employers to pay workers who cannot work from home, if required. OSHA's guidance provides strategies for preventing the spread of COVID-19 and includes tips for safe work practices.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, a growing number of employers are adopting or expanding their remote work policies and protocols in order to keep workers safe and their businesses up and running to the extent possible.