Dear Chamber Members,
Today’s business update complied by your Greater Sumter Chamber Team includes: COVID-19 Litigation Tracker Reveals Explosion Of Workplace Claims In June, Tax Deadlines Approaching, Senate Re-Open SC Children’s Services/PPE Subcommittee Discusses School Reopening
1. COVID-19 Litigation Tracker Reveals Explosion Of Workplace Claims In June
Last week, Fisher Phillips issued a legal alert announcing that over 43% of the COVID-19 employment lawsuits filed throughout the nation came from filings in the last month (283 suits at the time of writing, now up to 303). This is according to the Fisher Phillips COVID-19 Employment Litigation Tracker, which supports evidence that the number of suits is proliferating as we continue to operate during the pandemic.
Fisher Phillips provides several key takeaways from the data:
- Case Filings Are Increasing At An Exponential Rate
- “Most starkly revealed is the explosion in claims filed in the most recent month. Of the 283 COVID-19 lawsuits tracked by Fisher Phillips, 122 of them were filed in June, which represents 43% of all known lawsuits. This is a 30% increase from the 94 cases filed in May, and a 103% increase from the 60 cases filed in April.”
- Class Actions Are Also Rising Steadily
- “41 such class action claims have been filed against employers since the beginning of the pandemic, with 16 of them having been filed in June – and six filed in the last week of June alone. This is an increase of 65% in class actions filed through May 2020.”
- Discrimination And Work-From-Home/Leave Claims Dominate The Docket
- “Of the 63 pandemic-related discrimination claims, many of them sound like classic workplace disputes wrapped in a COVID-19 context.”
- “Close behind are work-from-home/employee leave claims, with 62 such lawsuits on dockets across the country as of June 30th.”
- The top five classifications of COVID-19-related claims are:
- Employment Discrimination: 63
- Work-From-Home/Employee Leave: 62
- Retaliation: 41
- Unsafe Working Conditions/Lack of PPE: 26
- Wage and Hour: 20
- Class Actions Focused On Safety Concerns And Wages
- “The two most common types of workplace class action claims filed against employers include allegations of unsafe working conditions (eight), and wage and hour concerns (seven).”
The Employment Litigation Tracker reveals that there are currently four COVID-19-related claims in South Carolina.
The Greater Sumter Chamber of Commerce continues to advocate for targeted and limited liability protections for employers that follow public health guidelines and rules. We encourage the use this link, which allows you to send an email to your senator and representative telling them how important it is that the General Assembly comes back in September 2020 to pass a safe harbor bill.
2. Tax Deadlines Approaching
Earlier this year, due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, federal income tax deadlines were shifted from April 15th to July 15th, 2020. South Carolina followed suit and moved state income tax deadlines to July 15th as well. This means income taxes must be filed by Wednesday of next week, or you must file for an extension.
Several months ago, the Greater Sumter Chamber of Commerce and 15 local chambers of commerce in South Carolina sent letters to the Municipal Association of South Carolina (MASC) and the South Carolina Association of Counties (SCAC), encouraging their members to extend tax deadlines for businesses in cities and counties throughout the state.
In response, many cities and towns waived penalties for late payment of business license taxes or extended the deadline for paying the tax, and many cities and towns that assess a local hospitality tax or accommodations tax did the same.
At this time, cities have restarted the collection of their taxes and service fees. All business license tax extensions have expired after having been extended 60 days on average.
3. Senate Re-Open SC Children’s Services/PPE Subcommittee Discusses School Reopening
In a meeting yesterday, the Senate Re-Open SC Children’s Services/PPE Subcommittee, chaired by Senator Katrina Shealy, heard testimony from state officials and experts, including SC State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman, about important considerations to get children back to school. A few of the key takeaways are below:
- 21 districts have started in-person summer school, 27 have delayed their program
- The State Department of Education (SDE) hopes districts can return to face-to-face instruction this fall, but most districts have not yet decided how school will look when they begin in the fall.
- Dr. Debbie Greenhouse (Pediatrician, Palmetto Pediatric & Adolescent Clinic, PA) testified that incidents of COVID-19 are lower for children than adults and that kids need to get back to school in person as soon as possible for their mental health.
- The decision about whether to have their child return for in-person classes or learn virtually will ultimately be left up to the individual parents, even if the district does offer in-person learning.
- Schools have been able to reach 5,654 more students than last month, when schools were not able to reach 16,085 students since in-person classes ceased on March 16th – this leaves over 10,000 students unaccounted.
- In an average year, around 70,000 students (10%) are truant (five days total missed unexcused absences or three consecutive days). There are also over 12,500 homeless students. This doesn’t excuse all of the students who are currently unaccounted for but explains some of them.
- The SDE has told districts to turn in names and addresses of students unaccounted for to the SC Department of Social Services (DSS). All names and addresses should be turned into DSS by July 15th.
- DSS will cross-reference the list of children provided by districts with the list of children in the agency’s care — such as the 4,235 children in foster care —so that DSS can put the schools in touch with the children.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:
Governor McMaster signed SC Governor Signs Lactation Support Act:
Signed on June 25th, 2020, the new Act requires that any employer, regardless of size, permit employees reasonable opportunities to express milk in a private place other than a toilet stall. An aggrieved employee may file a charge of discrimination with SC Human Affairs Commission (SCHAC) in the event any adverse action is taken for requesting or using reasonable unpaid break time or paid break time or mealtime, to express breast milk. However, an employer will not be held liable if it takes reasonable efforts to comply with the Lactation Support Act. Read more in a fact sheet from SCHAC.
These and other resources for businesses are available on our website.
As always, we will keep you up-to-date on any further information as it becomes available. Please feel free to reach out to me at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org with questions.
Have a great day,
Chris Hardy, CCE, IOM
President & CEO