Employer Protected From Employee’s Spouse’s Suit Over COVID Spread
A recent lawsuit had many employers on edge after an employee’s spouse contracted COVID and sued her husband’s employer claiming that the employer was liable for tort damages because it knew or should have known that its workers were all potentially exposed to COVID-19 and allegedly did not follow COVID safety protocols. She asserted that her husband brought COVID home from work on his person or through his hair and clothes.
On May 10, 2021, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California ordered an end to the lawsuit at the pleading stage dismissing the case with prejudice. The Court concluded that the employer was protected by California’s Workers’ Compensation exclusive remedy and, more broadly, that any duty to provide a safe workplace to employees does not extend to non-employees infected away from the workplace.
This case should provide guidance to other courts, however, it is not binding on California state courts, so employers should be on the lookout for similar claims and should continue to follow CDC and California’s guidance to ensure a safe and healthy workplace. If you have any questions or need the latest information, be sure to contact your favorite CDF attorney.