O P I N I O N
Many design firms that adjusted their workplace to address COVID-19 face heightened exposures to employment-related litigation and related negative consequences. Managing employment-related exposures
A s design firms of all sizes emerge from the prolonged impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, they shouldn’t overlook potential exposures to employment practices related litigation. These actions typically exceed $250,000 in judgment costs and attorney’s fees. Furthermore, even when employers prevail, they face significant defense costs and the potential for lasting impacts on employee morale, productivity, and reputational damage.
The number of employment-related lawsuits remains high. In 2020, as payrolls dwindled due to COVID-19, the EEOC still received more than 67,000 employment-related complaints, including a record 56 percent alleging retaliation. Many employers, including design firms, were forced to downsize during COVID-19 and those layoffs are often recharacterized as age- or gender-biased discrimination claims. It is safe to assume that concerns about claims relating to back-to-work and vaccination mandates/mask-wearing protocols together with remote work and similar policies will continue well into 2022. Sound risk management practices reduce the likelihood of claims and establish a firm’s defense in any related litigation. In addition, they help firms
obtain better terms and conditions in the purchase of employment practices liability insurance. Here are some key elements of an employment practices risk management program: ■ ■ Create/update an employment manual. This is the firm’s first line of defense and should articulate clear and consistent policies and procedures, including any process for reporting situations involving discrimination or harassment. If your firm already has a manual, when was the last time it was updated? Manuals should be updated to take into account COVID/post-COVID changes in business practices. ■ ■ Review the employment manual with all current
See ROB HUGHES , page 4
THE ZWEIG LETTER FEBRUARY 14, 2022, ISSUE 1428
Made with FlippingBook Annual report