Why Employers Should Not Force Returning Employees to Sign Liability Waivers

Companies that are requiring or thinking of requiring employees who are returning to the office COVID-19 liability waivers should know that they are likely not going to be enforced by a judge, according to a published report quoting a number of employment lawyers.

Many companies want to try and limit their potential liability should an employee contract COVID-19 in the office, but there is not much that can be done, the lawyers said.

“There’s really almost no chance of them being enforced,” said David Barron, an attorney with Cozen O’Connor. “The corollary to that is it’s just evidence [workers] may use against you.”

Some states are going as far as to assume that individuals who test positive for coronavirus contracted it while working, which is making it easier for individuals to access services like workers compensation.

Waivers could go as far as to hurt morale inside an office, according to the report. Asking employees to give up their rights and face unfair termination if they refuse to sign the waiver could cause more problems than the waivers are trying to solve.

The waivers put employees in a “terrible bind,” said one advocate. Employees are faced with either signing over their rights or being fired for not signing over their rights.

“In many areas of law, the way we sort of analyze this and assess it is unless somebody’s holding a gun against your head, you’re free not to enter into an agreement,” said Michael Duff, a workers’ compensation professor at the University of Wyoming College of Law. “In an environment where unemployment is increasing, the line between what is coercive and what is not can become blurred.”

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