Manufacturing Business and COVID-19 Employment Litigation

Monday, February 22, 2021

Manufacturing employers are likely to continue to see an increase in COVID-19-related litigation in the industry. Keeping up with the latest trends in litigation related to COVID-19 can help ensure that manufacturers adhere to the common bases of suspected violations.

Since the beginning of April 2020, manufacturers across Germany have submitted one to seven new COVID-19-related complaints about work complaints every week. Given the size of the litigation filed over the past 10 months, these litigation is likely to grow.

General trends

Since April 2020, more than 130 COVID-19-related complaints have been filed against manufacturers. Of these complaints, California, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio, and Pennsylvania have the highest COVID-19-related litigation in federal and state courts. More than 50 percent of these cases were filed in various state courts; The remainder was filed in federal courts nationwide. About 95 percent of the claims were made by an individual plaintiff rather than through class or class actions.

COVID-19-related manufacturing litigation generally falls into six categories:

  • contract
  • Disability, vacation and accommodation
  • Discrimination / Harassment
  • Retaliation / Whistleblower
  • Wages and hours
  • Safety and working conditions in the workplace

Almost half of these submissions fall under the category of “disability, vacation and accommodation”. Common reasons for action are alleged unlawful dismissal or interference with rights under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) or the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). In state courts, the files allege a violation of state discrimination laws resulting from employees’ extended vacation because of complications, underlying health conditions, or disability exacerbated by COVID-19. The documents submitted against manufacturers tended to relate to FFCRA or FMLA allegations from individual plaintiffs.

There is also a steady flow of complaints in the categories “Discrimination / Harassment” and “Retaliation / Whistleblower”, around a third of which were submitted to the Federal Supreme Court. Frequent reasons for measures because of “discrimination / harassment” are alleged violations of the state and the federal government against discrimination or civil rights laws, e. B. the termination of the employment relationship of an older worker or a pregnant woman because they are members of a high-risk population. A common reason for “retaliation / whistleblower” is alleged retaliation for complaining about poor workplace safety. Significantly, “retaliation / whistleblower” claims are often accompanied by complaints of “disability, vacation and housing” and “discrimination / harassment”, even if this is not the main allegation.

Status of the cases

Manufacturers continue to see COVID-19-related labor disputes on a weekly basis. Most cases are in the early stages of litigation and have not yet been dismissed or resolved at the time. A limited number of COVID-19-related cases have been arbitrated or settled between the parties, and a small number have been voluntarily dismissed by plaintiffs. Interestingly, the federal court in the eastern district of Michigan has granted the defendants’ motions for dismissal in three separate cases as agreed by the parties. Each case involved alleged unlawful termination or retaliation under the FFCRA or FMLA. It is unclear whether disability, vacation and lodging cases will be dismissed by courts in other jurisdictions as the COVID-19 labor litigation affecting the manufacturing sector continues to evolve.


As COVID-19-related labor disputes continue to emerge and affect manufacturers in the United States, manufacturing employers should remain vigilant on relevant legal updates. Employers should review and comply with relevant employers’ obligations and rights under federal and state laws and regulations as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

Jackson Lewis PC © 2020National Law Review, Volume XI, Number 53

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