Brendan Begley Discusses the Office of the Future with the Sacramento Business Journal

Employment attorney Brendan Begley spoke with Sam Boykin of Sacramento Business Journal about the recent SBJ cover article on “ The Office of the Future.”  The in-depth article includes a wide spectrum of voices discussing different aspects of the changing workplace. Brendan addressed some legal concerns that employers may face in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Legal protections
Another concern for business owners is legal exposure, as most lawyers anticipate a spike in lawsuits as businesses reopen.

Brendan Begley, a shareholder and employment lawyer in the Sacramento office of Weintraub Tobin, said he foresees lawsuits arising from what happened in the health care industry during the outbreak. Begley said that some doctors and nurses were fired because they refused to treat patients unless they were provided with personal protective equipment.

“As a lawyer, I can see how something like that will result in lawsuits,” he said.

Similar scenarios could play out in other industries, as workers refuse to serve customers unless they have personal protective equipment. Or some employees may accuse a company of not providing adequate protections in the office.

“If a worker gets punished for saying that, or they get fired for not coming back to work, I think we’re going to see classic wrongful termination in violation of public policy claims,” Begley said. “Those claims are likely going to mushroom as people return to work.”

The best way to deal with such scenarios, Begley said, is to be tolerant, flexible and open-minded of new demands employees might have. “That doesn’t mean you have to give in to all of them, but you can’t just fire someone if they don’t want to come back to work. You have to stop and think why they don’t want to come back to work, and if there’s something you can do to massage and accommodate the situation so everyone can get along.”

Another challenge facing employers as they reopen is that many will likely have to downsize and lay off workers, Begley said. This could open the employer up to charges of age, race or sex discrimination.

“Even though you’re not intending to single out a group, it could still result in some kind of discrimination lawsuit,” he said. “If you’re laying people off, no matter what, some people are going to get hurt feelings.”

Despite the many challenges business will face, Begley said there is a silver lining. “A crisis can spur people to improve. Employers are going to be forced to find new and innovate ways to do things, which often will make them more productive and efficient.”

The full article is available on the Sacramento Business Journal website,  click here to read.