Were Employers Sued More During the Pandemic?

The COVID-19 pandemic has permanently changed the way we work. In fields that can accommodate it, teleworking has become widespread. Much has been written about the trend known as the Great Resignation, the workforce realignment said to have been brought on, at least in part, by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Federal court data from Docket Alarm does not show a nationwide upheaval in employment litigation; however, some companies have experienced growth in these kinds of suits.

The graph below shows the volume of cases filed under employment and labor-related case types in recent years.

Cases matching these criteria were at a high prior to the outbreak of the pandemic in March 2020, seeing 1,300 to 1,400 cases filed per month. Since March 2020, these cases have fallen to under 1,000 per month.

November and December 2020, the heart of the pandemic, saw the highest case totals of the examined period, with over 1,600 for each month. Data indicated that there were more lawsuits filed against government defendants for those two months, such as the Postal Service as well as Robert Willkie, then the Secretary of Veteran’s Affairs.

Two of the top employment lawsuit targets are retailers, one with brick-and-mortar stores and another dominating e-commerce. America’s largest private employer, Walmart, tops the list, with Amazon in second among a slew of government-related defendants. Wells Fargo, Home Depot and Lowe’s also appear.

The top law firms appearing in employment and labor cases include Littler Mendelson, Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, Jackson Lewis, and Seyfarth Shaw.

Walmart has seen a steady pace of employment litigation against it, with no visible trends.

Walmart is represented in employment litigation by a variety of firms, including Littler Mendelson and Ogletree Deakins.

Amazon, no stranger to lawsuits over employment issues, has seen a steady increase in employment law cases against it in recent years.

The e-commerce giant is represented by Littler as well as Morgan Lewis and Gibson Dunn, among other firms. Like Walmart, Amazon faced more employment lawsuits in 2021 than in recent years.

COVID may have caused upheaval at the workplace, but those changes have not clearly altered federal employment litigation patterns. Critically, many employment lawsuits are also found in state courts, especially those involving smaller businesses. However, workplace changes are just beginning, including unionization drives at businesses like Starbucks.