Q:

Do companies run a risk of claims around discrimination/harassment of colleagues based on disability or race/national origin and related to Covid-19?

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Rachel Amos
The Senate
14 Mar 2020

A: SenseCheck

  • 4 Yes
  • 0 Unclear
  • 0 No
SenseCheck complexity

Newest Answer Oldest Answer

  • 14 May 2020
  • Yes

    Simple

    There has been a reported increase in racism towards people of Chinese ethnic origin since the pandemic began, and there is a risk that employers could face legal action as a result of perceived discrimination by other members of staff, or by the company's own employment practices. There is also a risk that workers with health conditions, may feel unfairly treated due to their susceptibility to the virus should they contract it. Companies will need to tread carefully to ensure they do not discriminate either directly or indirectly and ensure robust greivance and investigation procedures are in place.

    https://www.leighday.co.uk/Employment-discri…

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    Adrian Smith
    The Senate

  • Comment

  • 13 May 2020
  • Yes

    Simple

    Many employers have been forced to consider employee layoffs, furloughs or salary reductions as a way to manage some of the financial hardship created by COVID-19, and these considerations must be made in line with applicable anti-discrimination laws. Federal law in the US prohibits discrimination or victimisation against employees who have an illness or take protected medical leave, and this would apply to employees who are forced to take leave because of COVID-19. Employers can not terminate the contract due to illness, and as lockdowns are lifted they are obliged to ensure that their employment practices remain non-discriminatory.

    https://www.shearman.com/perspectives/2020/0…

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    Isabelle Gulliver
    The Senate

  • Comment

  • 13 May 2020
  • Yes

    Complex

    This may be of especial concern in the US, given its litigious culture. There is a reasonable possibility that businesses that choose to hire/not hire certain individuals could be sued for indirect discrimination on the ground that specific nationalities are seen as more likely to have the virus. The Washington Post reported recently that some businesses may need to rely on temporary legal protections against certain suits being introduced, to avoid facing extensive damages.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020…

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    Louise Evans
    The Senate

  • Comment

  • 14 Mar 2020
  • Yes

    Simple

    Per the attached Sidley memo:

    " Employers have a duty to protect their employees from discriminatory or retaliatory behavior by other employees if they are suspected to have COVID-19 or have self-reported. Where COVID-19-related rumors directed at ethnicities arise, employers should address the rumors and proactively state that COVID-19 is not an ethnically based disease."

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    Rachel Amos
    The Senate

  • Comment