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Legal Report: Employers Not Liable for COVID-19 Spread at Home

Judicial Decisions

United States

Health and safety. The California Supreme Court ruled that employers are not liable in instances where a staff member contracts COVID-19 while working and then spreads the virus to anyone that he or she lives with.

The unanimous ruling, issued in July, came in response to a lawsuit filed by the wife of a construction worker. Corby Kuciemba claimed she became ill after contracting the virus from her husband, who caught COVID-19 while working for the Nevada-based company Victory Woodworks, Inc., at a San Francisco job site.

Judge Carol Corrigan noted that while Victory Woodworks may have been negligent in allowing COVID-19 to spread among its workforce, expanding duty of care to non-employees, such as members of an employee’s household, “would impose an intolerable burden on employers and society in contravention of public policy.”

“…Employers have little to no control over the safety precautions taken by employees or their household members outside the workplace,” Corrigan said. “…There is also a possibility that imposing a tort duty not covered by workers’ compensation could lead some employers to close down, or to impose stringent workplace restrictions that significantly slow the pace of work. The economic impact of such changes could be substantial and is difficult to forecast.”

Had the court ruled in favor of Kuciemba, countless employers would have been vulnerable to “take-home” COVID litigation, according to the court’s opinion. (Corby Kuciemba et al., v. Victory Woodworks, Inc., Supreme Court of California, No. 20-cv-09355-MMC, 2023)

Seditious conspiracy. A U.S. district court issued prison sentences to leaders of a far-right militant organization, The Proud Boys, for their involvement in attempting to overthrow the peaceful transition of power during the riots at the U.S. Capitol building on 6 January 2021.

Enrique Tarrio, former chairman of the Proud Boys, was sentenced to 22 years and 36 months for seditious conspiracy and other charges, according to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). Tarrio and three other codefendants were found guilty of conspiring to prevent the Electoral College vote that confirmed the results of the 2020 U.S. presidential election. Tarrio’s sentence is the longest issued for those convicted on charges related to the Capitol assault, so far. (United States v. Enrique Tarrio, U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia, No. 21-175-5 (TJK), 2023)

Joe Biggs, a Florida leader for the Proud Boys, was sentenced to a 17-year prison term. Biggs and his codefendant, Zachary Rehl (who received a 15-year sentence), were the first leaders of the group to face sentencing.

Ethan Nordean, a Seattle, Washington, leader for the Proud Boys, was sentenced to 18 years in prison. Along with seditious conspiracy, Nordean was also convicted of five more felony charges linked to the January 6 riot. (United States v. Ethan Nordean, Joseph Biggs, Zachary Rehl, and Charles Donohoe, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, No. 21-cr-175, 2023)

Additionally, Dominic Pezzola was sentenced to 10 years for conspiring to obstruct Congress' proceedings. Although Pezzola did not write violent messages online prior to the attack, the judge in his case determined that that he played a significant role in the assault when he initiated the attack by smashing a window of the Capitol building with a stolen police riot shield. (United States v. Dominic Pezzola et al, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, No. 21-cr-175, 2023)



Civil rights. Japan enacted the LGBT Understanding and Enhancement Bill in mid-June, which requires the government to better “understand” people who identify as LGBTQ.

The law aims “to raise awareness of gender diversity” among its citizens, according to Nikkei Asia. However, the new legislation does not explicitly ban discrimination, failing to identify which, if any, penalties may be levied against individuals who discriminate against members of the LGBTQ community.



Slave labor. A corporate ethics watchdog—the Office of the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE)—announced it was investigating the Canadian units of Diesel, Hugo Boss, and Walmart. The investigation is looking into claims of the use of Uyghur forced labor in the companies’ respective operations or supply chains in the Xinjiang region of the People’s Republic of China.

All three companies have denied the allegations.

CORE said it will conduct an investigation using independent fact-finding to determine the validity of the accusations against Hugo Boss and Walmart. This is because the watchdog said neither company provided sufficiently specific responses to the allegations.

Representatives for Diesel added that the company “reviewed its supply chain, and it is not involved with any human rights abuse, nor does it purchase material from the Xinjiang region,” according to a press release from CORE. However, CORE will still investigate the clothing company’s business relationship with a Chinese company that is allegedly benefitting from Uyghur forced labor.

United States

Cybersecurity. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) adopted final rules on cybersecurity risk management strategy, governance, and incident reporting. The rules aim to improve and standardize disclosures of cybersecurity incidents.

The final rules include that an organization must notify the SEC within four business days of discovery of a material cybersecurity incident. This report should include details about the incident and its impact on the organization.

Organizations are also required to annually disclose information about their cybersecurity risk management, strategy, and governance.

Also of Interest

Security Management also tracks instances where security incidents and interests intersect with judicial, legislative, and regulatory agencies. The following are stories of potential significance.

Bullying. The parents of Mallory Grossman agreed to a $9.1 million settlement with a New Jersey school district. Grossman died by suicide after intense bullying throughout the 2016-2017 school year. For months prior to her death, Grossman's parents had asked school officials for help and filed complaints about the bullying their daughter was experiencing. 

Civil rights. Judges for the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal ordered the city’s government to recognize the rights of same sex-couples. But the court did not expand the right to legally marry to homosexual couples.

Social media research. X—the social media platform formerly called Twitter—filed a lawsuit against the nonprofit Center for Countering Digital Hate, claiming the research organization’s analysis of the platform was based on improper collection of its data and that the findings were responsible for the loss of millions of dollars in advertising revenue.

Wildfire. Maui County officials filed a lawsuit against Hawaiian Electric, accusing the utility of negligence when it did not disconnect power lines and in turn allegedly caused the fatal fires that swept through a coastal town on the island. Hawaiian Electric claims it was not responsible for the fires.

Another lawsuit filed by the family of a wildfire victim accused county officials of negligence due to a failure to issue timely alarms warning people about the fire.