Employment Law in a Time of Coronavirus: Fight Employer Abuses Even While Stuck at Home
This is a guide to some possible legal employment claims you can pursue during the Coronavirus/Covid-19 Crisis, even though they may be based on events that occurred while you were still going to work.
It's a Good Time to Evaluate Your Potential Employment CaseYou may be presently enjoying not having to face a terrible employer, but also terrified for your family’s future.
One pro-active step to take despite Covid-19 fear is to either dust off that potential employment law case that you had decided not to bring for fear of retaliation, but which seems less risky now that you have been laid off anyway, or finally start that case the employer just recently provoked, by violating the law in the manner of discharging you.
Employment law claims all have statutes of limitations—time limits for filing, which we are treating in a separate guide. Critically though, there is never a prohibition against filing merely because you no longer work for the employer.
Let's Consider Some Possible Claims1) Unemployment Compensation Appeals: Perhaps the employer contested your unemployment claim before the crisis. That claim may now be far more valuable because, as a response to the crisis, the federal government is adding $600.00 per week to many unemployment checks for a period extending for the next several months.
2) Unpaid Wage Claims: Many jurisdictions, including Washington, D.C. and Maryland, provide strong protections if your employer stole your final paycheck or otherwise failed to pay the agreed wages, especially if minimum wage laws were not followed.
3) Discriminatory Layoff Cases: If your employer laid off some, but not all workers because of Coronavirus, the decision on whom to keep may have been discriminatory. For instance, black, female or older workers may have been disadvantaged despite superior work performance, or employees considered inconvenient because of disabilities, pregnancy, or need for family or medical leave may have been the first to be shown the door. Remember the possibility of a discrimination claim before you accept an offer of severance from the employer that would require you to give up any future claims.
4) Claims Based Upon Hostile Work or Educational Environment During the Employment, Including Sexual, Racial, or Disability-Motivated Harassment: While you were still working, the employer may have created or tolerated a workplace full of sexual harassment or racial epithet and insult. So long as you can satisfy the statute of limitations, such cases can be strong even after the employment has ended, especially since the employer’s ability to intimidate you or your witnesses (if you have any) is reduced when it is no longer controlling your livelihood.
5) Promotions Denied During the Employment Based Upon Race, Ethnicity or National Origin: Under the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which is otherwise analyzed in a similar manner to Title VII of the 1964 law, you have a longer time frame to begin a case than just 300 days from the action; for instance, a claim for a discriminatory firing or retaliation brought under the 1866 law may be brought in court within 4 years.
6) Fair Pay Claims Based Upon the Lillie Ledbetter Fair Pay Act: Discrimination in pay based on age, religion, national origin, race (ethnicity), sex or disability “accrues” when you receive a paycheck that is discriminatory. So if you can point to an unfair pay disparity between employees performing the same job, you may have a case even if that situation was first implemented by the employer long ago.
7) Qui Tam or Whistleblower Retaliation Cases: If you’ve lost your job anyway, there’s less to fear from blowing the whistle on fraud or other illegality you might have observed while still employed.
We are living in difficult times, but consider using this period to learn your rights and consider whether wrongs previously committed against you can still be remedied.