July 20, 2020
As COVID-19 lockdown restrictions are lifted, and businesses all over the nation begin to re-open, a lot of Americans are facing a return to work. Unfortunately, the pandemic is still a risk, which means that working outside of the home can lead to COVID-19 exposure and contraction.
Because of this, some employers ask their workers to sign a COVID-19 waiver that restricts employees from suing for damages should they contract this highly infectious and deadly disease in the workplace.
Naturally, this type of ask gives some employees pause. It leaves others wondering whether this type of waiver is legal at all. The answer is complicated in that, yes, an employer can ask you to sign a COVID-19 waiver, but that the waiver will likely wind up being unenforceable in the court of law.
Below is a list of things that may make any COVID-19 waiver you sign as an employee unenforceable:
- The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) requires employers to keep workplaces safe and clear from recognized hazards. Additionally, there are both federal and state guidelines for protecting people from the spread of COVID-19. If your employer fails to keep the workplace safe for employees and someone contracts COVID-19, the liability waiver they signed likely won’t matter to a court.
- Worker’s compensation cannot be waived, and a few states have made COVID-19 temporarily compensable under worker’s compensation. This includes California.
- Due to the imbalanced power dynamic between employers and employees, some states issue a public policy that refuses to enforce any liability waiver expect in very specific conditions. These states include Louisiana and Virginia.
- Considering that the entire world is dealing with a global pandemic at a level, we have not seen in our lifetimes, it is unlikely that a court will choose to punish an employee who contracted this horrific disease while at work.
In summation, an employer can ask you to sign a COVID-19 waiver. Whether or not you choose to sign is up to you, but if you decide to sign it, it is crucial to understand that the waiver will likely be unenforceable should you contract the disease.
Keep in mind that there are no guarantees, but if you do wind up sick and decide to fight the waiver, you will want a stellar legal team on your side. Call David Yeremian and his bilingual legal team in Glendale for help and assistance.