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Jeffrey Campolongo and Faith Beckworth of the Law Office of Jeffrey Campolongo.. Jeffrey Campolongo and Faith Beckworth of the Law Office of Jeffrey Campolongo..

In the past 10 months, we’ve seen an abundance of federal and state legislation pushed through to address COVID-19 concerns in the workplace and, while the new laws vary somewhat from state to state, most are designed to manage issues such as sick leave for employees and family members or employer-reporting requirements. One area of concern that both employers and employees may want to keep in mind, however, is how the courts will receive whistleblowers who come forward about their employers’ handling and enforcement of COVID-19 guidelines and regulations. Indeed, it may become clear sooner rather than later, as the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania just recently allowed a case that  involves this very issue, to move forward.

In Allen v. Northeast Treatment Centers, CIV.A.No. 20-5519 (E.D. Pa. Jan. 8, 2021) (Allen v. NTC), three nurses brought claims against their previous employer for racial discrimination and retaliation. Among their complaints of harassment and disparagement, the nurses also alleged that they were retaliated against (in their eventual firing) for bringing it to their director’s attention that she had repeatedly “violated social distancing guidelines issued by Philadelphia and the commonwealth to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.” The court noted that this conduct constitutes deviation from the standard of care for medical providers, as well as violates “various ethical codes of conduct.” Citing the seriousness of global health concerns that the pandemic poses, the court has found that the nurses’ allegations are sufficient to survive the defendant’s motion to dismiss and the case will move forward in litigation.

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