On April 6, 2021, the total number of COVID-19-related employment complaints filed in United States courts passed the 2,000 mark. Although it took eight months to reach the first 1,000 complaints (March–November 2020), it took less than five months to go from 1,000 to 2,000. Indeed, December 2020 through March 2021 included the four busiest months for new COVID-19-related employment complaints since the start of the pandemic.
As the country accelerates past the 2,000-complaint milestone, we note the following facts and trends using Jackson Lewis’ COVID-19 Employment LitWatch:
- States with the most complaints filed are California (487), New Jersey (267), Florida (142), New York (137), Ohio (127), Texas (105), and Michigan (74). Since January 1, 2021, states with the most, new complaints (in descending order) are California, New Jersey, Ohio, New York, Florida, Texas, and Michigan.
- California is beginning to eclipse the rest of the country. Since January 1, 2021, California alone accounts for approximately 29% of all complaints filed in the United States, up from 21.4% of the first 1,000 complaints. New Jersey holds steady in the number two spot, with 13% of complaints filed in 2021, slightly up from 12.6% of first 1,000 complaints. Together, California and New Jersey account for 42% of all complaints filed in 2021.
- California and New Jersey plaintiffs continue to flock to state court. Since January 1, 2021, 96.6% of California complaints and 89% of New Jersey complaints have been filed in state court. During that same time period, outside of California and New Jersey, approximately 57% of complaints were filed in state court, and 43% in federal court.
- Nearly all complaints now include allegations of wrongful termination. Since January 1, 2021, approximately 83.3% of complaints include allegations of wrongful termination. This number has been steadily increasing throughout the pandemic. Approximately 74% of the first 1,000 complaints included an allegation of wrongful termination.
- The Healthcare industry continues to bear the brunt of COVID-19 litigation, but the Retail and Consumer Goods industry is experiencing a sharp increase. Since January 1, 2021, approximately 25.1% of all new complaints have targeted the Healthcare industry, which has been fairly constant throughout the pandemic. The Retail and Consumer Goods industry, however, is experiencing a dramatic increase from 7.5% of the first 1,000 complaints filed, to approximately 13.7% of complaints filed in 2021.
- “Disability, Leave & Accommodation,” “Discrimination/Harassment,” and “Retaliation/Whistleblower” continue to account for nearly all claims. These categories of complaints accounted for approximately 76% of the first 1,000 complaints but jumped to 85.5% of all complaints filed in 2021.
- Class Action Lawsuits. Approximately 86 COVID-19-related employment class action complaints have been filed across the United States, primarily in California (36), Florida (14), Illinois (6), and New York (6). Eighteen of these class actions were filed in 2021.