Can You Make Your Employees Sign a COVID-19 Waiver in CA?
The COVID-19 pandemic has raised a wide range of concerns for employers, including whether employees might hold companies accountable if they believe they contracted the virus on the job. Some employers responded by requesting that employees sign waivers releasing the company from liability for COVID-19. While this might seem like a wise legal maneuver, is it a good idea?
If you are considering presenting your workforce with a COVID-19 waiver, there are many things you need to know, and a waiver might not be a practical - or even feasible - solution to liability concerns. Discuss the matter with an Encino employment lawyer who can advise about the best course of action for your company in this situation.
Potential Problems with COVID-19 Waivers
There are several possible problems that can arise if you request employees to sign waivers of liability for contracting COVID-19 at work. Legally speaking, these waivers are often unenforceable, which will not properly protect your business from liability. The following are some things to consider about unenforceability:
- You cannot have employees waive workers’ compensation coverage, which is the primary recourse for employees when it comes to work-related illnesses.
- Your company has the duty to follow all health and safety guidelines set out by federal and state law regarding COVID-19. Enforcing liability waivers might allow employers to have unsafe working conditions, so courts are not likely to do so. Waivers also cannot stop OSHA complaints or investigations.
- Employers and employees traditionally have uneven bargaining power, so courts are less willing to enforce agreements that require employees to sign away their rights as a matter of public policy.
With all of these potential issues in mind, waivers might be ineffective at achieving your company’s goals of limiting liability.
Potential Issues with Workforce Morale
Other issues with COVID-19 liability waivers go beyond the legal sphere, as these agreements can cause problems among your employees. First, by asking them to sign a waiver, it might give the impression that you expect there to be a high COVID-19 exposure risk at work. Otherwise, why would the business have concerns about liability? This can make employees reluctant to return to work or cause them to expect an unsafe working environment.
In addition to questions of enforceability and possible employee morale issues, waivers might not even be necessary. This is because employees might have a difficult time bringing a successful lawsuit for COVID-19 exposure. The main recourse for ill employees is workers’ compensation coverage, which disallows negligence claims against employers. If your employees properly seek workers’ compensation, they should get the benefits you deserve without needing to file a private lawsuit against your company.
Contact Our Encino Employment Lawyers for Help Today
At Kaufman McAndrew LLP, our Encino employment attorneys advise companies on a variety of issues regarding employees and COVID-19. Call 818-788-5767 or contact us online for a consultation and to learn more about the legal services we provide to companies. We work to both prevent employment issues and address them when they arise.