Just recently, a woman in Illinois filed what is thought to be the first COVID-19-related wrongful death suit against an employer, alleging that her mother died after being infected with the virus by her father—who is believed to have gotten it at the meat-processing plant where he works. The case is being referred to in the mainstream media as a “take-home” suit, meaning illness was allegedly contracted in one location then brought home for transmission to another party. The term originated with asbestos lawsuits—which differ from COVID-19 cases in that a worker’s exposure to asbestos is much more likely to be limited to their workplace while currently we could come into contact with people who have COVID-19 almost anywhere. (JUCM covered this topic in the early days of the pandemic; see ‘Occupational Exposure’ to COVID-19.) While it’s unlikely take-home cases built around secondary COVID-19 transmission will be successful, even an unsuccessful suit results in high legal and resource costs. Defendants may be called upon to prove they took all reasonable precautions to protect workers. This is where urgent care operators who offer occupational medicine services come in. You’re the go-to expert on health concerns in the workplace. Ensure your clients—or prospective new clients—understand your capabilities for testing, assessing, and treating their workforce. Help them establish procedures for instances when a potentially ill employee presents for work. That may head off lawsuits, but even more importantly help reduce the chance of employees getting sick.
Occ Med Providers Take Note: Valid or Not, Lawsuits Against Employers Over COVID-19 Spread Are Inevitable