John Price Law Blog

Employment Discrimination in the COVID Era

Employee discrimination is an unfortunate occurrence that never seems to go out of season. Now that the COVID-19 pandemic continues to run rampant, employee discrimination has taken on a new form. Here is a closer look at how the pandemic has impacted employee discrimination in the workplace.

COVID as Pretext

For some employers, the pandemic may be viewed as a chance to get rid of some employees. It could use the current climate to justify layoffs when, in reality, it is just an excuse to get rid of some employees. It is important for employees to know their rights and also realize they are not liable to be laid off just because there is a pandemic going on. Not all businesses are bottoming out. If it can be established that an employer let go of an employee by using COVID as pretext, they could be held liable.

Individual Layoffs

In the midst of this pandemic, many businesses had to reduce their number of employees. But when only select individuals are laid off, it could raise a bit of skepticism. Why was one person laid off and not someone else? If whole departments are cut, then there is no basis for a lawsuit as it is an apparent show of a decline in business. But when individual layoffs occur, there is a reasonable basis to question why each one occurred.

Reduced Hours

A reduction in hours during the pandemic has been commonplace in an abundance of companies. Some are just not making enough money to keep all their employees. However, if there is a common theme within these layoffs, there may be reason to file a lawsuit. Are the hours reduced for members of the same ethnicity, gender or age group? If so, then there are grounds for a case.

Age Discrimination

Some companies have denied employee requests to work from home because of fear of contracting the coronavirus. Older employees, who are more susceptible to negative health effects of COVID-19, would be in a safer environment in their homes. However, a denial of that request has resulted in discrimination lawsuits being filed.

Mask Policies

Employees should be aware that refusal to wear a mask at the workplace could result in termination and is not considered a form of employee discrimination. If an employee cannot wear a mask because of a legitimate medical condition, then arrangements must be made by the company so they can perform their duties. However, a sheer refusal to wear a mask at work is not grounds for an employment discrimination lawsuit.