It’s been barely a year since the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic set in. Yet the number of coronavirus-related employment complaints filed across the country has already sailed well over 1,000. That means how the pandemic negatively affects trucking’s workers — especially drivers on the front lines of America’s response to the crisis — is becoming a risk factor for fleet managers.
Google the topic, and it will soon be abundantly clear that law firms are all over this issue, with some providing free informational resources on their websites.
One such could be labeled “Cautionary Tales,” as it goes into detail on how lawsuit after lawsuit came into being due to the pandemic, yes, but also in many cases due to management failures to act or adapt to the times.
Here are some compelling entries from the COVID-19 Related Workplace Litigation Tracker posted by Barnes & Thornburg LLP:
Watts v. Estes Express Lines Inc.
A dockworker alleged he requested permission not to report to work while coworkers remained contagious, and that he was ordered to return to work the next day. He then requested to only work an eight-hour shift to minimize the risk of contracting COVID-19 from first-shift employees. He claims that he was terminated for refusing to return to work to avoid exposure to an area that had been occupied by coworkers who had contracted COVID-19. He also alleges the company failed to properly clean the area, thereby intentionally exposing him to COVID-19.
Samuel v. JB Hunt Transport Inc.
A truck driver alleges he was terminated in violation of the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA). The plaintiff alleges that, in conflict with a state-issued order, drivers were not being provided adequate PPE or wearing masks. He also claims that he was forced to work around other drivers who had symptoms of COVID-19. The plaintiff alleges that his “complaints about the health and safety of workers was ignored.” Later, the plaintiff was involved in a work-related accident, which he claims was not his fault but that his employer determined was “preventable.” A few days later, he was terminated allegedly “in retaliation for the complaints he made about health and safety issues in violation of the CEPA.”
Luna v. Penske Logistics LLC et al.
The plaintiff, on behalf of himself and a putative class of current and former non-exempt employees in California, sued his employer for various violations of the California Labor Code. In particular, the plaintiff alleges that non-exempt employees are not paid for time spent waiting in line to be screened for COVID-19 with temperature checks. Based on that and other allegations, the plaintiff claims the defendant failed to pay both minimum and overtime wages due, and thus failed to provide accurate wage statements. The plaintiff also alleges that after complaining about the company’s failure to take the appropriate precautionary measures and adhere to COVID-19 public safety guidance, he was terminated shortly after. The plaintiff alleges, on his own behalf, that he was wrongfully terminated in violation of public policy.