Innovation Update

Conduct data-driven investigations of suspicious employment claims during pandemic

Bad actors don’t let a good crisis go to waste. Shifting of governmental department of health mandates and the absence of systems to capture evidence of compliance have contributed to a perfect storm of fraudulent employment claims during the pandemic. But you can still find hard data to drive your investigations and defense strategies.

During the global pandemic, employees are increasingly filing claims on safety violations and negligence from alleged exposure to hazardous working conditions. Just by November 2020, the number of COVID-19 employment claims filed, in the U.S. alone, was approaching 1,000, according to the JacksonLewis law firm. The same trend is probably emerging globally. (See Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on Employment Litigation in 2020, by Paul J. Siegel, Jenna E. Dysart and Heather L. Hulkower, JacksonLewis, Nov. 17, 2020.)

Many of these claims are valid, but some employers and employees might be taking advantage of vulnerable circumstances. When it comes to pandemic-related employee allegations, investigations or litigation defense, organizations can benefit from some creative thinking. They should adopt new, innovative ways to demonstrate corporate integrity and due diligence with respect to how they protect their employees using data analytics.

Protect essential workers

The pandemic highlights the importance of front-line food workers in grocery stores, supermarkets, food banks and other food vendors. In recognition of their value, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued guidance for employers to reduce transmission among employees, maintain a healthy work environment and continue effective business operations. (See What Grocery and Food Retail Workers Need to Know about COVID-19, CDC, Nov. 12, 2020.)

Guidelines include measures ensuring sick employees don’t return to work until approved by state and local health departments, protecting employees at greater risk, mandating personal protective equipment (PPE), providing access to soap for hand washing, constructing barriers and reducing payment touch points, providing clear signage, limiting customers in stores and designating points of contact responsible for COVID-19 concerns, among other guidance.

The nearly 40,000 U.S. supermarkets are considering the difficulty of measuring compliance and planning structured approaches to legal defenses. Their failure to implement guidelines in a timely manner could be the deciding factor when employees or family members seek retribution for sickness or tragic deaths.

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