A Michigan based company was recently sued for allegedly firing its assistant manager after contracting the COVID-19 virus. The suit claims this firing violated the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act, the Family Medical Leave Act, and Michigan Executive Order 2020-36.
Why It Matters:
Two things stand out about this lawsuit. First, you have an employer who appears to have gone to significant lengths to protect customers and staff from being exposed to COVID-19. Second, trying to do the right thing still means an employer must pay attention to the details. And those details involving employee disciplinary action will be more complicated when it comes to COVID-19.
According to the complaint, Prada v. Trifecta Productions, LLC (d/b/a Tomukun Noodelbar) the plaintiff worked for a noodle bar in Ann Arbor as a waiter and assistant manager. The suit alleges the plaintiff told his manager that he was not feeling well around June 24, 2020. And he was diagnosed with COVID-19 on June 27, 2020.
The restaurant then announced on July 1, 2020, that it had learned an employee tested positive for COVID-19 and that it would close so that employees could get tested and the restaurant could be professionally cleaned. About a week later the restaurant reopened for carry-out.
Meanwhile, the plaintiff claims he had recovered from COVID-19 without further complications. Yet Plaintiff alleges that the restaurant did not pay him for sick leave, fired him, and told him “For PR reasons it would be best for you not to come back.”
As to the legal claims, the plaintiff asserts Trifecta’s termination violated:
- Michigan Executive Order 2020-36, which prohibits “discharging, disciplining, or otherwise retaliating against an employee . . . for staying home from work …” for times covered in under the statute.
- The Families First Act, which provides for up to 80 hours of paid sick time to employees who are unable to work due to the effects of COVID-19.
- And the Families First Act makes it unlawful under the Act for any employer to “discharge, discipline, or in any other manner discriminate against any employee” who exercises his right to “take leave in accordance with this Act.” Violations are subject to the penalties described in sections 16 and 17 of the FLSA (29 U.S.C. § 216, 217).
This lawsuit was filed at the end of August 2020 and Defendant answered the complaint a few weeks later. So both litigants likely have a long, expensive road of litigation ahead of them before a final decision is reached.
Use this link to contact Michigan attorney Jason Shinn if you have questions about this article, or complying with Michigan or federal employment laws or litigating claims under both. Since 2001, Mr. Shinn has represented companies and individuals in employment discrimination claims under federal and Michigan employment laws.