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What To Do If Your Job Asks You To Sign A COVID-19 Liability Waiver Upon Returning To Work

Cassidy Chansirik
Cassidy Chansirik Student at U.C. Berkeley
Hi! I'm Cassidy, a rising junior majoring in Legal Studies at U.C. Berkeley who is passionate about the law, helping others, and all things coffee!
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liability waivers at work
Some workplaces, fearful of future lawsuits, are asking their employees to sign COVID-19 liability waivers upon returning to work in-person. 

Here, we have some tips for you on what you should do if you're asked to sign one. 

What is a COVID-19 Liability Waiver?

A COVID-19 Liability Waiver is a waiver that outlines the risks an employee may face upon returning to work in-person, such as contracting COVID-19. 

The waivers say that employees cannot sue employers should they contract COVID-19.  

Each COVID-19 liability waiver will look different. This is because each state has different regulations and each workplace has different job duties for their employees. 

Some employers have hired attorneys to create COVID-19 Liability Waivers, while others have turned to the Internet to download pre-made templates. 

Some lawyers think that these waivers wouldn't hold up in court. Jennifer McGlone, our Chief Legal Officer, says, "Companies need to stand behind their reopening policies. If they are following local and state mandates for safety, then that's there defense in court. They don't need these waivers."

She encourages people to think of how they'd react if asked to sign a liability waiver before swimming in a friend's pool. 
"If it's so unsafe to swim that you need to sign a waiver, maybe don't swim?"

Other experts think  that COVID-19 Liability Waivers are enforceable if they are specific, narrowly-tailored to your workplace, and can be clearly understood upon reading. 

Some states have already said these contracts won't hold up in court. Connecticut, Louisiana, Montana, and Virginia have said legally that a COVID-19 Liability Waiver is not considered an enforceable contract. 

Should I sign the COVID-19 Liability Waiver from my employer? 

Since COVID-19 Liability Waivers have only been used in workplaces for the past three months,  it is unclear how much weight they will carry in a lawsuit. 

While some experts suggest that signing a waiver shows you acknowledge the risks of returning to work, Professor of Law Alan Hyde at Rutgers Law School advises employees not to sign one. 

Hyde says,“If you get sick on the job, you're already covered under workers’ compensation, and that’s something you can’t waive.”

If I sign the COVID-19 Liability Waiver, but contract COVID-19 at my workplace, can I still sue my employer? 

Professor of Law Andrew S. Pollis at Western Reserve University says, “Even though liability waivers discourage people from taking legal action, that doesn’t mean legal action isn’t possible.”

If you contract COVID-19 at your workplace and you have signed a COVID-19 Liability Waiver, you can still sue your employer for intentional conduct or gross negligence

In early April, the family of a Walmart employee who died of COVID-19 sued the company for not protecting workers enough. In their lawsuit, the family stated that Walmart did not enforce social distancing measures, sanitize the store properly, or provide sufficient personal protective equipment to employees. 

In Missouri, a group of workers sued Smithfield Foods after a coronavirus outbreak caused several workers to become sick.

If you contract COVID-19 at your workplace because of intentional conduct or gross negligence, filing a lawsuit is not your only option. 

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) now identifies COVID-19 contracted at work as a reportable injury. This means that an employee who contracts COVID-19 at work can file a claim with OSHA. 

After the claim has been filed, OSHA will conduct an investigation. If an employer has violated CDC guidelines, OSHA will issue a citation and a fine. 

All in all, only you can decide whether or not signing a COVID-19 Liability Waiver is in your best interest. Should you need advice or would like an experienced attorney to read over your employer’s COVID-19 Liability Waiver, Court Buddy can help. 

Court Buddy is here to connect you with an experienced and trusted lawyer who can help you at an affordable rate. The company assists with the management of your case and lawyer relationship. Your lawyer will assess your legal issue in a timely and confidential manner, explain why you need or do not need a lawyer, and only charge you for the legal services performed and associated out of pocket fees. This article is intended to convey general information and does not constitute legal advice.

Ready to get started? We’re here to help.

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