Attorneys Seeing Increase in Pandemic-Related Labor Lawsuits

Local attorneys are seeing an increase in labor lawsuits since start of the pandemic

NBCUniversal, Inc.

Hundreds of pandemic-related lawsuits have been filed over the past few months and legal experts predict some cases will last several years.

Local mother of four, Taneasha Newsome, told NBC 7 she believes she was wrongfully terminated from Axos Bank, in La Jolla, while working from home. She had spent nine years with the company before the pandemic.

“I sacrificed so much of my time, my life, dedication to this company and during a time like this, they just let me go,” Newsome said.

She said the pandemic flipped her, already busy, life upside down. She’s a single mother to four kids, between the ages of 4 and 15. She said her autistic 6-year-old requires extra attention, which he received at school and during therapy before operations were stopped because of public health order.

“We had the help of teachers, coaches and therapists. (But) at this time, it was just me doing all that,” Newsome explained.

Nonetheless, she adapted with the changes – working from home and juggling schoolwork and therapy with her kids.

“I would try to get half of my (work) day done before they (kids) woke up. (Work) became a problem when I was told I wasn’t being productive,” Newsome said.

She said Axos Bank used a tracking program to monitor how much work employees were completing while at home, but doesn’t believe the program was accurate. Newsome said she received a write-up from her employer. A few weeks later, employees were asked to return to the office for work.

It was around that same time that Newsome requested a leave of absence to care for her children, including her 6-year-old, who required additional care for his disability. Newsome said the request was denied. She said she asked to continue working from home instead and that her employer granted the request.

“It was approved the same day, and the next week I get fired,” Newsome said. The situation did not sit well with her attorney, Alreen Haeggquist.

“Her employer can accommodate her, reduce her hours, offer her a different schedule, but they didn’t offer any of these things,” Haeggquist said.

The allegations have been denied by the Senior Vice President of Axos Bank, Greg Frost, who sent NBC 7 this statement:

"Like most public companies, it is our policy not to comment on the specifics of pending litigation. With respect to this complaint, we can say the allegations are false and omit material facts, and we are confident we will prevail once these material facts are presented to the appropriate forum."

More than 400 coronavirus-related labor lawsuits have been filed across the U.S., according to Fisher & Phillips, a legal group tracking litigation nationwide.

“It’s a scary time for employers and employees alike,” said Dan Eaton, a local attorney who represents employers.

“The conversations I'm having with my clients deal with what kind of preventative measures they can take to avoid liability. That's really the key, and it's uncertain if what they do will completely avoid liability because we're dealing with uncharted territory,” Eaton said.

Eaton told NBC 7 some cases would take years to resolve.

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