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The selfish actions of some businesses only make this serious situation even worse for countless workers, families, and the members of our society who are most vulnerable to the deadly virus. As a result, coronavirus lawsuits are on the rise.
The coronavirus pandemic has caused tragedy and chaos across the globe. To date, it has caused more than 1.5 million confirmed cases worldwide and upwards of 88,000 deaths – and those numbers are still on the rise, as the outbreak continues to devastate the United States and other nations.
Yet the true amount of harm caused by this crisis goes far beyond the number of positive tests. The widespread shutdowns that have been needed to help stop the spread of this highly infectious virus have ravaged the economy, bringing entire industries grinding to a halt and resulting in massive layoffs that raised the rate of unemployment in America to a historic high.
In a time when we all need to be pulling together just to survive, some companies are doing just the opposite: price gouging, withholding workers’ hard-earned paychecks, retaliating against workers who dare to speak out about unsafe working conditions, and so much more. These unconscionable actions are deepening the suffering of our fellow Americans – all so big companies can keep lining their own pockets.
A coronavirus outbreak at a nursing home isn’t just a tragedy. It’s also potentially a case of nursing home negligence.
Like many other infectious diseases, COVID-19 poses the greatest risk to individuals who are older and in poorer health. Nursing homes, where the elderly and the sick are crammed into close quarters, are among the environments where coronavirus infection is most prevalent and most destructive.
The mortality rate of COVID-19 climbs drastically with age. Just 0.3 percent of people in their 40s who contract COVID-19 die from the disease, but that number jumps to:
The stakes are far too high to allow slip-ups that expose the vulnerable population of nursing home residents to go unaccounted for.
Nursing homes have an irrefutable responsibility to protect the residents living within the facility. Senior citizens and their families entrust the resident’s very life to the nursing home and its staff. Failing to provide the safe environment needed to protect the elderly from this highly contagious virus is nothing short of negligence – and, often, a matter of life and death.
Given the highly infectious nature of the novel coronavirus, was there really anything the nursing home could have done to prevent the infection?
As numerous investigations across the United States are illustrating – yes.
The nursing home controlled, and was responsible for, every single aspect of the resident’s environment. And, if that environment had been controlled correctly and with the proper preparedness measures in place, the resident would never have developed COVID-19 in the first place.
Contracting the virus while under the care of the nursing home may represent a glaring failure on the part of the facility. At the very least, you should have an attorney representing your family’s interests conduct a thorough investigation. Coronavirus nursing home lawsuits are emerging across the country as many families learn that a nursing home failed to take the steps it should have to prevent transmission of the virus.
In many of the nursing homes that became hotspots for deadly disease outbreaks, investigators are finding that the facilities may have been negligent in one or more ways, such as:
Some nursing homes have already been fined hundreds of thousands of dollars by government officials after investigations revealed that multiple, serious deficiencies in their handling of the COVID-19 outbreak contributed to the deaths of numerous residents, according to NPR.
Right when more Americans are out of work than ever before, some companies are refusing to pay up the wages they owe employees, breaking laws pertaining to overtime pay, and denying employees the hazard pay they deserve in the current working environment.
Wage and hour claims and other employment matters are becoming more and more widespread as businesses all over the world face unprecedented circumstances in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. While some businesses are adopting new policies to stand by their employees in this time of need, others are utterly failing to return the loyalty their workers have shown them over the years.
It’s a chaotic time, but that’s no excuse to mistreat workers and cause even more financial harm by withholding wages, violating employment contracts and overtime payment laws, and exposing workers to greater risks than necessary.
There’s no denying that the financial fallout of the coronavirus outbreak has affected the economy in broad, and mostly detrimental, ways. Small and mid-size businesses are hurting, and even big corporations are taking a massive blow from the shutdown.
But there’s no excuse, under any circumstances, to fail to pay employees for the hours they already worked. That’s exactly what happened in many of these wage and hour claims filed on behalf of employees:
Workers aren’t just losing the opportunity for future work due to layoffs, but also being cheated out of the money they earned for the work they have already done.
This behavior is illegal and unjust – and particularly heinous now, at a time when hardworking American families are at risk of losing everything due to the pandemic they have no control over.
There may be nothing you can do about the COVID-19 outbreak or its widespread economic consequences, but there is something you can do about this outrageous violation of wage and labor laws. You can, and should, take legal action right away.
Already, workers in situations like yours have moved forward with filing coronavirus employment lawsuits against the employers who have failed to do even the bare minimum required to do right by their employees in this difficult time. Through litigation, these companies will have to answer for their actions, and their workers will have the chance to get the full amount of money they are entitled to.
What stands out from the accounts of the workers who ultimately filed coronavirus lawsuits is the ever-changing story of the employer. Yes, this is a confusing time for all of us, but too many employers were full of excuses and broken promises. These companies told workers they could use paid time off while the business was closed, then changed their minds, Bloomberg Industry Group reported. They used the wait for federal funding as an excuse to put off paying wages for the work their employees had already done – work that had already brought in revenue for the business.
You’ve been patient enough. You’ve given your employer enough chances to make things right. Now, it’s time to hold them accountable.
Independent contractors and freelancers have legal rights too.
It’s not only traditional employees paid on a W-2 basis who have legal rights. A growing number of independent contractors and freelancers are reporting nonpayment of invoices, with clients using COVID-19 as an excuse not to pay for the work they already contracted out.
Getting your invoice paid as an independent contractor is more complex than as an employee, who is covered by more extensive wage and labor laws. But it’s still worth your while to speak to an attorney about your legal options and any recourse you may have, based on the laws and regulations in your location.
Of course, not everyone is out of work. If you’re employed in what’s deemed an “essential” industry, your work environment is more stressful and more dangerous than ever.
With constantly evolving new regulations and procedures and the impact of the illness itself, essential businesses are severely understaffed.
Further, in the effort to lower the risk of spreading COVID-19, businesses are intentionally reducing the number of staff on-site at a given time.
For workers, the upshot of all this is long hours in stressful working conditions. What makes it even more stressful is when companies are forcing workers to take on unexpected mandatory overtime or failing to pay overtime to the employees who deserve it.
In York County, Pennsylvania, for example, 911 dispatchers are already working 60-hour weeks and are now subject to working even more forced overtime. These truly necessary personnel are reportedly threatened with firing if they refuse, even though the increased work hours and inflexible overtime scheduling goes against what’s stipulated in their employment contract, according to local news source The York Dispatch.
And some of the essential workers out there aren’t even getting paid for the overtime they work. Employers have historically used a variety of measures to cheat the system and avoid having to pay overtime, like wrongly classifying employees as exempt or instituting policies that require additional work while prohibiting paid overtime. However, as essential workers are now needed more than ever, the number of employees being taken advantage of by these measures is only growing.
Given the dire risks of in-person work in organizations that remain open, employees are now clamoring for much-deserved hazardous duty pay. As they endanger their health and lives — not to mention that of their own families — for the public good, they deserve to be compensated for the risks they are taking every day when they come to work.
Hazardous duty pay is “additional pay for performing hazardous duty or work involving physical hardship,” according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Under that definition, work that imposes physical hardship includes any “work duty that causes extreme physical discomfort and distress which is not adequately alleviated by protective devices.”
Multiple unions of federal government employees, including the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU), have been publicly pushing for hazard pay for workers who are required to continue to report to work during the pandemic, as well as for the cleaning supplies and services required to make the workplace safer. The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) has filed a coronavirus lawsuit seeking hazardous duty pay for federal employees whose work has put them at a “higher than normal risk of exposure, retroactive to January 27,” according to FEDweek.
Although private employers are not legally required to offer hazardous duty pay, some do stipulate the possibility of hazard pay in employment contracts. Other companies have voluntarily raised wages for workers during the COVID-19 crisis despite not typically offering hazard pay in these roles or as part of their employment contracts.
If you believe you are entitled to hazard pay due to the dangers of your work environment during the COVID-19 outbreak but your employer has refused to provide this pay, you may have legal recourse. It’s time to reach out to our coronavirus employment lawsuit attorneys for help understanding your legal rights and options.
If you’re a business owner whose insurance company is denying a claim for business interruption benefits that could keep your company afloat during this crisis, you may need an attorney to sort out this complicated matter.
It’s one thing when a crisis just happens to increase the need for a product or service you sell. But it’s another thing entirely to capitalize on the suffering of others by hoarding necessary supplies and raising the prices by exorbitant amounts just to make a bigger profit while people get sick, go hungry, and lose their lives.
Price gouging isn’t just unethical — it’s illegal. Government attorneys and private attorneys across the United States are cracking down on price gougers, from individuals to massive corporations.
Some of the items that have been the subject of price gouging include:
Generally, the legal standard of price gouging in many areas is a price increase of 10 percent, according to the Associated Press. But in some instances, retailers have increased the cost of these needed items by as much as 300 to 400 percent — or more.
The result has been $10 rolls of toilet paper, $40 face masks, and $79 bottles of hand sanitizer, according to TIME.
Online retail giant Amazon announced in late February that the company was cracking down on third-party sellers for price gouging behaviors, according to The Verge. The company removed tens of thousands of product listings for price gouging — and upwards of 1 million products claiming to “cure” COVID-19 — Reuters reported. However, Reuters also noted such serious price gouging issues as a $10 box of small bottles of hand sanitizer marked up to $400 and another bottle of hand sanitizer listed at $600, prompting a letter from Massachusetts Senator Edward Markey.
Yet Amazon itself was sued in a class action lawsuit filed on March 10, 2020. According to Law Street Media, Florida mother of five Stephanie Armas, filed the class action lawsuit after Amazon charged her $99 for a pack of toilet paper that, she said, would normally cost around $36 and $199 for a double pack of hand sanitizer that usually runs in the ballpark or $16 or less.
Price gouging has become a problem across the United States, but it’s no coincidence that some of the areas hit hardest by the outbreak are also seeing some of the most widespread reports of exorbitant price increases. At the local government level, New York City has seen a particular rise in price gouging complaints. As of March 20, the City had fielded more than 1,000 complaints, over which the municipality had issued 550 violations and announced $275,000 in fines, TIME reported.
Both individuals and companies have faced serious consequences over allegations of price gouging.
Auctioneer Tim Worstell, owner of Auctions Unlimited in Texas, has been sued by the state’s attorney general after attempting to sell soap, disinfectant wipes and a stockpile of 750,000 face masks at a markup in excess of what’s permitted under state price gouging laws, according to USA Today. Before authorities broke up the auction, Worstell reportedly brought in $154,000 — $40,000 of it which went to him personally — including a pack of 16 N95 respirator masks for which the price listing climbed to $180.
In Alaska, the attorney general has filed a complaint against an individual, Juan Lyle Aune, over alleged price gouging in reselling N95 respirators on Amazon and eBay. The complaint reported that Aune bought 20-packs of masks at the price point of $17 to $23 apiece before reselling them for $89 per pack.
Since the start of the U.S. outbreak, numerous retailers have received cease-and-desist letters and been sued or fined over cost increases that violate price gouging laws. Stores selling PPE, basic food and toiletry needs, cleaning products, and medical products may all face legal action if accused of price gouging.
If you have encountered price gouging during this crisis, you may have legal recourse. A lawsuit isn’t the only option for addressing this unacceptable behavior, but it likely is the only one of the options that will compensate you for the excessive money you had to spend to get the items your family can’t go without.
Companies that refuse to give appropriate refunds for travel plans and shows canceled due to the coronavirus, or that charge monthly fees for services their members cannot use, are adding insult to injury — and, in the midst of an economic crisis, are causing further financial harm to families who can’t afford this burden.
Before COVID-19 brought life as Americans knew it to a halt, you had plans — plans to travel, plans to see a show, plans to go to the gym. As the disease outbreak grew, these plans went out the window.
State leaders issued executive orders to stay home. Airlines cancelled flights, railways shut down service, and previously sold-out shows were cancelled or postponed. Non-essential businesses like gyms were ordered to close.
The reasonable thing for the businesses profiting off of the sales of these tickets and memberships to do is to refund the money consumers spent on the outings they couldn’t attend. After all, it’s not like you simply changed your mind about going. A public health crisis emerged that, in many cases, shut down the event entirely.
Yet too many businesses haven’t taken the steps to refund that money. Even worse, some companies took this opportunity to change the refund policies under which consumers had purchased their tickets and memberships. Suddenly, promised refunds were being replaced with vouchers and gift certificates that, for many consumers, are essentially worthless. People lost hundreds or even thousands of dollars because the companies they had previously trusted with their business now refused to issue refunds fairly.
Some of the situations in which you may have a claim for a refund refusal lawsuit against a company include:
Although some companies have offered credit in the form of vouchers or gift certificates, that offer may not absolve those businesses from their responsibility to honor refund requests.
Already, airlines like United Airlines have been sued in lawsuits seeking class action certification on behalf of ticket-holders whose flights were cancelled but who were denied monetary refunds, according to Fox Business. Tickets for train travel and other forms of transportation may also prompt similar lawsuits.
A Wisconsin man filed a class action against Stubhub in April, alleging that the company was failing to honor its prior money-back guarantee and instead offering only coupons for unspecified future events to the ticket-holders of some 23,000 events canceled due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
In the case of the Lightning In A Bottle music festival planned for May 2020 in California, a class action lawsuit arose after ticket-holders were reportedly refused any kind of refund, according to Law 360.
Another ticket provider, GrowTix, has been sued not by ticket-holders but instead by the entertainment promoter for the event, according to Hollywood Reporter. The Boston ComicCon event planned for March 20 through 22, 2020, was nearly sold out and likely to go down in history as “one of the biggest comic cons ever” when the coronavirus situation forced the event to be cancelled. Entertainment promoter ACE Universe reported in the complaint that the company had discussed the refund process with GrowTix and transferred to the ticketing company $680,000 to facilitate consumer refunds to be completed within 30 days. However, the complaint reported, GrowTix instead kept this money and the refunds the company was supposed to issue, in essence “stealing millions of dollars” from would-be attendees.
Another class action lawsuit on behalf of high school students (and their parents) whose planned student tours never happened has been filed against tour companies Cultural Exchange, Inc. and EF Education First International. The student tour companies have refused to offer full refunds, leaving students with the option of a “travel voucher” for an unspecified future trip or a partial refund that comes with a $1,000 fee, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Some of the consumers being ripped off by companies refusing to grant refunds weren’t planning a big trip or event. All they wanted was to go to the gym. The class action lawsuit filed by a woman in California alleges that 24 Hour Fitness, a gym chain with 4 million members, has continued to charge membership fees for the month from March 17 through April 15, 2020 — even though the gym announced closures as of March 16, the San Diego Tribune reported.
Still other lawsuits are addressing the room and board fees that many colleges have failed to refund to students even after the campus had closed and instruction was moved completely online. A class action lawsuit filed against the Arizona Board of Regents contends that more than 100,000 students attending Northern Arizona University, the University of Arizona and Arizona State University should receive refunds for room and board fees that totaled between $10,000 and $14,000, according to the Arizona Daily Sun.
For many consumers, what’s most infuriating is the abrupt change to refund policies, according to The New York Times. These suspiciously timed policy changes suddenly allow these companies to get away with keeping the money for events that never occurred and services that were never provided.
If an insurance company is the one refusing to pay up, you may need help from an attorney for a COVID-19 lawsuit. Many business owners are turning to the insurance policies they have already paid for to get them through the financial hardships caused by the coronavirus pandemic, only for those insurers to refuse to provide business interruption benefits. Find out what you can do aabout a business interruption insurance issue.
At a time when our healthcare professionals are making very real sacrifices, too many of their employers are further compromising their safety — and threatening to fire any workers who speak up about the hazardous working conditions and lack of protective gear.
A “whistleblower” is someone who reports when an organization’s behavior is illegal, inappropriate, or unsafe. In the case of COVID-19 whistleblowers, these claims are overwhelmingly a result of healthcare professionals — doctors, nurses, technicians, and others — who were forced to work without adequate PPE or risk losing their jobs.
In some instances, healthcare professionals are let go merely for complaining or questioning the lack of personal protective equipment. In others, such as the case of a Chicago infectious disease nurse fired from Northwestern Memorial Hospital, the healthcare worker was fired for what they said to others — within or outside the organization — or for bringing in their own PPE not issued by the hospital.
Nurse Lauri Mazurkiewicz alleges that she was fired for warning colleagues and supervisors in writing that the facemasks provided by the hospital were less effective than N95 masks and for subsequently bringing in her own N95 mask to work, according to ABC News. Healthcare professionals have also been let go, or at least threatened with termination, for speaking about a shortage of PPE in the workplace to the media or the public.
Retaliating against whistleblowers in the healthcare field is immoral and, during the current crisis, particularly worrying, since many healthcare systems don’t have enough staff to provide care for the increasing number of acutely ill patients. If you believe you were fired for speaking up about the hazard of exposure to COVID-19 in your workplace, it’s time to speak to an attorney about your legal rights.
Part of being a smart business owner is preparing for the unknown. Although you could never have predicted the novel coronavirus pandemic and the economically devastating lockdowns going on all over the world, you had the foresight to purchase business interruption insurance.
Intended to help companies cope with business closures relating to disaster situations, these insurance policies have likely cost you thousands of dollars over the years. Although you hoped you would never need to use these benefits, knowing they were there brought you priceless peace of mind.
As business owners whose companies are closed – in many cases indefinitely – due to COVID-19 prepare to access these much-needed benefits, their insurers are leaving them high and dry. These insurance companies are now denying claims resulting from the coronavirus pandemic, ABC News reported.
Some of the excuses insurers are giving for not paying benefits under business interruption insurance policies to commercial policyholders include:
In many policies, there is no such language that excludes situations like the current COVID-19 outbreak. Insurance companies may have no legal basis whatsoever for denying claims for business interruption insurance benefits – but if a first-line denial can deter business owners from further pursuing the benefits they’re entitled to, that’s more money for the insurer to hold onto.
Across the country, lawsuits have been filed against insurance companies over their failures to pay benefits on business interruption insurance policies or all-risk business insurance policies. In the hard-hit restaurant industry, in particular, many companies are clamoring for business interruption insurance benefits. Other lawsuits have been filed on behalf of dentist offices, gyms and fitness clubs, florists, and other types of businesses.
You shouldn’t have to sue to get the benefits you’ve paid for, but many small business owners are forced to do just that. We know you’ve got enough on your mind – and a million things to worry about – so let a COVID-19 lawsuit attorney help you find the answers you need and guide your next steps with a free, confidential consultation.
No company can be allowed to use this crisis as an excuse for reprehensible and selfish behavior. In the midst of this catastrophe, that last thing you would expect is to need an attorney. Yet the number of lawsuits currently being filed is surging as a result of the coronavirus – and, more specifically, the unacceptably poor way these companies are choosing to respond to the pandemic.
In so many of these cases, brave plaintiffs are setting the stage for whether companies will be able to get away with this sort of illegal and unethical behavior throughout the course of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Taking a stand by filing a coronavirus lawsuit doesn’t just help you and your own family. Each lawsuit becomes one more reason to deter the selfish companies from doing what’s best for them but worse for the public good — and for their own patients, employees, and customers.
If you’re starting to think taking legal action is the only option you have left to solve these serious problems, please know that you’re far from alone. Together, we will get through this – but only if we all commit to holding accountable the companies that are putting profits before people.
We understand that this is a difficult time for many of us. To make things a little easier, our firm will review every COVID-19 lawsuit case completely free, and there’s no obligation to move forward if you don’t want to. It’s time to find out your options and stand up for your legal rights. Call us today to get started. You can also contact us here for a free case evaluation.