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Wrongful Termination Damages due to COVID-19

Published December 4, 2023

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about unprecedented challenges for the global workforce, leading to a rise in employment discrimination and wrongful termination examples across the country. Given the unusual nature of the COVID pandemic, these cases present unique complexities due to the uncharted territory they encompass. Whether you’re an employee seeking compensation or an employer defending against wrongful termination allegations, The Knowles Group provides economic damage calculations and expert witness testimony crucial in such cases. Contact us today to discuss your case.

What is Wrongful Termination as it Relates to COVID?

Wrongful termination refers to the unlawful or unjustifiable termination of an employee’s employment contract by an employer. It occurs when an employer fires an employee, violating employment laws, contractual agreements, or public policy that constitutes wrongful termination. COVID-19 has introduced unique circumstances that have heightened concerns regarding wrongful termination that raise questions about termination decisions related to COVID-19, including

  • Vaccine refusal: If an employer terminates an employee solely because they refuse to receive a COVID-19 vaccine without considering legitimate medical or religious exemptions, it could be considered wrongful termination.
  • Retaliation for health and safety concerns: If an employee raises concerns about unsafe working conditions and lack of reasonable accommodation related to COVID-19, such as inadequate safety protocols or proper protective equipment, and is terminated in retaliation for voicing those concerns, it could be deemed wrongful termination. Likewise, if an employee leaves voluntarily due to these concerns, they may have legal recourse for a constructive wrongful termination claim.
  • Discrimination based on COVID-19 exposure or illness: Terminating an employee based on their actual or perceived exposure to COVID-19 or their status as a COVID-19 patient without reasonable accommodation may constitute wrongful termination.
  • Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) violations: Wrongful termination can occur if an employer terminates an employee for taking protected medical leave under the FMLA to care for a family member with COVID-19 or due to the employee’s serious health condition related to COVID-19.
  • Violation of COVID-19 leave policies: If an employer fails to comply with applicable COVID-19 leave policies, such as those mandated by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), and terminates an employee who is entitled to such leave, it could be considered wrongful termination.

What is the Average Wrongful Termination Settlement Worth?

The potential settlement amount for general wrongful termination cases can vary significantly. According to data from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the average out-of-court unlawful termination settlement typically ranges from $5,000 to $80,000. Research indicates that a small percentage of wrongful termination cases result in substantial verdicts, with approximately 10% resulting in settlements of $1 million or more.

Is There a Formula For Calculating Wrongful Termination Damages?

Calculating wrongful termination damages requires calculating the total annual compensation, including annual salary, bonuses, and commissions, lost future earnings, and all lost benefits. This figure is then multiplied by the number of years an individual has been unemployed and the number of years they can be reasonably expected to remain unemployed if they have not already found unemployment. A simple formula for calculating damages in a wrongful termination lawsuit might look like this:

Wrongful Termination Damages = (Total Annual Compensation) x (# of Years Unemployed)

However, this doesn’t account for numerous factors like age, type of job, education, job search, experience, years expected to continue working, pain and suffering, and countless others. That’s why consulting with an expert in forensic economic damages is critical.

Possible Wrongful Termination Damages Due to COVID-19

Wrongful termination due to COVID-19 may result in various damages, for which individuals can seek compensation. Expert forensic economists accurately assess and quantify these damages to comprehensively evaluate the economic impact of wrongful termination. Some of these damages include

  • Lost wages
  • Lost benefits
  • Loss of earning capacity
  • Damage to reputation
  • Emotional distress

Lost Wages

Employment termination due to COVID-19 can result in financial losses in the form of lost wages. Calculating the amount of lost wages requires a detailed analysis of various factors, including the individual’s salary, duration of unemployment, and potential job prospects. By conducting thorough economic damage calculations, expert forensics can assist in accurately determining the compensation owed to individuals who have suffered from lost wages.

Lost Benefits

In addition to lost wages, termination can lead to the loss of crucial employee benefits. These benefits may include employer health insurance coverage, retirement contributions, and other fringe benefits. Quantifying the value of these lost benefits is essential to ensure that individuals receive appropriate compensation for their financial losses and future planning.

Loss of Earning Capacity

Termination due to COVID-19 can have long-lasting effects on an individual’s earning capacity. Factors such as the duration of time away from the workforce and the effort made (or lack thereof) during the job search process can impact future earnings potential and career advancement. Forensic economists analyze these factors to determine the potential loss of earning capacity and provide expert testimony on the economic impact of termination.

Damage to Reputation

Termination due to COVID-19 can also damage an individual’s professional reputation. This damage can have significant implications for future job prospects and career advancement. Evaluating the impact of reputational damage requires a comprehensive analysis of industry norms, potential career setbacks, and the individual’s specific circumstances.

Emotional Distress

Termination due to COVID-19 can cause emotional distress and psychological harm to individuals. The stress, anxiety, and loss of self-esteem resulting from such terminations can have long-lasting effects on mental well-being. As an expert forensic economist, I consider the emotional distress experienced by individuals and provide economic analysis to quantify these damages for fair compensation.

Federal Legislation Implemented in Response to COVID

Several federal laws have been enacted to address the impact of COVID-19 on employment practices, including the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and new guidelines under federal laws and standards set by the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA).

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)

The Family First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) is a federal law enacted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The FFCRA mandates certain employers to provide eligible employees with expanded family and medical leave for specified COVID-19-related reasons. This includes caring for a child whose school or place of care is closed due to the pandemic, if the employee is experiencing symptoms, or if seeking a medical diagnosis for COVID-19.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act is a federal legislation enacted to provide critical financial support to individuals, small businesses, and industries affected by the coronavirus pandemic. It includes provisions such as direct economic impact payments to eligible individuals, expanded unemployment benefits, support for small businesses through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), and relief measures for industries like airlines and healthcare.

Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA)

Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) plays a critical role for many employers in safeguarding the health and safety of workers, including workplace safety concerns raised by the COVID-19 pandemic. OSHA has provided comprehensive guidance to employers on implementing measures to protect employees from COVID-19 transmission in the workplace. This includes recommendations on social distancing, personal protective equipment (PPE), sanitation protocols, and hazard assessments.

Employees Participating in a Class-Action Wrongful Termination Lawsuit

In response to wrongful terminations related to COVID-19, groups of individuals and workers have united to pursue class-action lawsuits. Employees joining forces amplify their collective voice and increase their chances of holding defendants accountable for their vaccine refusal-related terminations. The class-action format enables them to pool their resources, experiences, and evidence to create a more robust legal foundation for their case against the governments or companies involved.

In these class-action lawsuits, the participation of employees is crucial for building a robust case and achieving a favorable outcome. Their shared experiences highlight the broader impact of these terminations and provide support for their claims. They gain strength and solidarity by uniting as a group and enhancing their negotiating power and leverage during legal proceedings. Expert forensic economists offer economic damage calculations and expert witness testimony to support these employees’ claims against governments and companies.

Employers Facing a Wrongful Termination Claim Due to COVID

On the other side of the equation, employers may face claims of wrongful termination due to COVID-19-related decisions, finding themselves in a challenging legal situation. These claims arise when employees allege they were unlawfully terminated based on their vaccination status or other pandemic-related factors. Such claims can have significant financial, reputational, and legal implications for the employers involved.

In response to these claims, employers must diligently assess the circumstances surrounding the terminations and gather relevant evidence to support their defense against legal action. Expert forensics can provide economic analysis and expert witness testimony to assist employers in defending against such claims. By evaluating the economic impact and providing evidence-based analysis, we can help employers present a comprehensive defense.

We Provide Economic Damage Calculations and Expert Witness Testimony for Wrongful Termination Claims due to COVID

The Knowles Group specializes in providing economic damage calculations and expert witness testimony for wrongful termination claims related to COVID-19. With a deep understanding of these cases’ legal and economic aspects, we provide expertise to employees seeking justice and employers facing allegations. Through comprehensive analysis and expert testimony, our services help to ensure fair resolution for individuals and businesses navigating the complexities of employment termination damages resulting from COVID-19.

If you’re involved in a wrongful termination lawsuit related to COVID-19, contact us today to schedule a complimentary case consultation.

Eric Knowles, MBA

The Knowles Group has been providing professional economic services to the legal community since 1979. The firm has worked on behalf of thousands of attorneys in a dozen states and Canada. Testimony has been provided in both federal and state venues.