Insurance Coverage Issues Relevant to Civil Unrest and the COVID-19 Pandemic
Damages Caused by Looting
For Florida businesses that have been directly damaged by the looting or vandalism caused by the recent civil unrest, they may be able to recover for damaged fixtures and/or missing items up to their general business insurance policy limits. In addition, businesses may have additional coverage known as business interruption coverage, which will allow them to recover for the period of time when they are closed due to cleaning-up and making repairs. Ultimately, whether a business’s losses are covered depends on the language inside the insurance policy.
Assuming your business is covered for the looting or vandalism that it sustained, be sure to keep track your expenses, meaning receipts for replaced items and work orders and invoices associated with emergency repairs. Also, take pictures and/or videos of the damage sustained.
Wage and Hour Claims Brought About by Remote Workers
Without a doubt, wage and hour claims will increase as a result of the pandemic. Many businesses were not fully prepared to have the bulk of their workforce work remotely during the pandemic and may have not properly communicated overtime restriction policies to non-exempt workers under the Fair Labor Standards Act. As a result, many non-exempt workers may have worked more than forty (40) hours per week from home during the pandemic and not been paid overtime. Those non-exempt workers may later bring FLSA claims and claim their employer “suffer[ed] or permit[ted]” the work.
Employment Practices Liability Insurance Policies typically exclude coverage for wage and hour claims. Accordingly, unless a business has special wage and hour liability coverage, it will have to hire independent counsel to defend such claims and pay for any settlement amount or court award out of pocket.
Negligence Claims Brought by Workers and Customers
Workers in office environments who return work and become infected with COVID-19 from their office may end-up filing claims for workers compensation or bringing lawsuits against their employers for negligence. State frontline workers are covered by Florida’s new rules for Coronavirus worker’s compensation. However, it is unlikely that worker’s compensation coverage applies to private-sector employees as it is tough to show that the virus was acquired by an accidental injury or occupational disease. Those employees who acquired COVID-19 and are unable to obtain worker’s compensation benefits may instead claim that their employer was negligent by failing to take reasonable measures to safeguard its employees, particularly if a cluster of employees becomes infected. Likewise, customers may also bring negligence lawsuits if they believe they were infected as a result of your business practices. A standard comprehensive general liability policy should provide coverage for those claims.
For more information or questions about your organization’s specific insurance policy as it relates your particular claim, contact McKellar Poursine, PLLC.