Each day of late feels like a week in terms of the firehose of news pouring out each day.
On Monday came news that Italy was going on lockdown. For a month.
And Connecticut state government rolled out a series of orders that included no travel and limits on meeting sizes to 100 or less.
And New Haven cancelled it’s St. Patrick’s Day parade. (Hartford was said to be considering it as well.)
And the federal court in Manhattan issued orders restricting courthouse access to cases.
It’s gotten me thinking a lot about how these next few months might start to look for employment law and litigation around the state (and litigation in general).
It’s not pretty.
Start, for example, with claims filed at the CHRO.
- Will in-person mediation sessions and fact-findings still be scheduled?
- Will public hearings have to be postponed?
And then there are the lawsuits.
- Will case deadlines be automatically extended?
- Will people want depositions to still be done in person?
- How are we to conduct business when our clients are in crisis mode?
- Will some employers, like hospitals really need to comply with routine discovery in cases when they are stretched thin? If not, how are deadlines to be adjusted?
- Will mediations and settlement conference still go forward or will parties insist that it be done telephonically?
- Will the courts move to telephone and online conferences only? Is that even feasible?
And then there are the day-to-day employment law issues that we can only scratch the surface of.
- Will sexual harassment prevention training sessions all still need to be completed by October 1, when in-person gatherings are prohibited or absenteeism is high?
- How will we be implementing paid family leave in the middle of a crisis?
- If a State of Emergency is declared, what does that do for other requirements that employers have to comply with?
Employers too may have to deal with sets of laws that it hasn’t thought about in a decade. All of a sudden, a reduction in force might be a necessity. Or the WARN notice.
Even late on Monday, we’re getting a bunch of new guidance from the Department of Labor. OSHA has released guidance that provides some much needed practical suggestions for employers dealing with this particular crisis. The Wage & Hour Division has released guidance on FLSA and FMLA questions as well; have a question on quarantines and isolation? It’s in there.
Regardless, even with this new information, there’s just way too much uncertainty right now. And while that might lead to business for employment lawyers, the next several months have the potential to turn ugly very fast.
Everyone keeps hoping for the best, but now continues to be the time to plan for the worst.