“In the more than two years since the pandemic shut down many offices, employees across the country have been forced to set up desks in cluttered kitchens and cramped bedrooms… A rise in employee lawsuits demanding reimbursement [some as high as $5,000] for expenses incurred while working from home during the pandemic.” H. Martín, Los Angeles Times, April 12, 2022
ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key
Excerpt: Workers are suing their bosses to get their work-from-home costs reimbursed By Hugo Martín, Los Angeles Times, April 12, 2022
‘We have tons of these in the pipeline,’ said Jacob Whitehead, an attorney who has filed about 20 class-action lawsuits over business expenses demanded by employees.
Home expenses such as telephone and internet fees, extra energy to heat or cool a house and office supplies can add up to $50 to $200 a month per employee, according to more than a dozen lawsuits examined by The Times.
If expenses were incurred during the entire duration of the pandemic, that could add up to as much as $5,000 for every worker. Some lawsuits are also demanding payment for the potential revenue employees could have collected had they rented out their home office instead of using it for work…
Other lawsuits, many of which are still working their way through the court system, have targeted such business giants as Wells Fargo Bank, Liberty Mutual Insurance, Visa, Oracle and Bank of America…The lawsuits highlight one of the most dramatic changes the pandemic brought to the business world: the widespread transfer of employees from business offices to home offices to help minimize the spread of the coronavirus.”
NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.
Level: Intermediate – Advanced
Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.
Time: Approximately 60 minutes.
Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.
Objective: Students will read and discuss the article with a focus on improving reading comprehension and improving oral skills. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.
I. Pre-Reading Activities
The K-W-L chart is used to activate students’ background knowledge of a topic in order to enhance their comprehension skills.
Directions: Have students use the KWL chart to list the information they already know about people working from home during the pandemic. Next, have students list the information they would like to learnLater in the Post- Reading segment of the lesson, students can fill in what they’ve learned about the topic.
II. While Reading Activities
Directions: Try to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. You use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.
- It has been more than two years since the pandemic shut down many offices.
- White-collar employees across the country have been forced to set up desks in cluttered kitchens and cramped bedrooms.
- Another consequence of the mass relocation of office workers: A rise in employee lawsuits demanding reimbursement for expenses.
- There are tons of lawsuits over business expenses demanded by employees.
- If expenses were incurred during the entire duration of the pandemic, that could add up to as much as $5,000 for every worker.
- Many companies paid for snacks and lunch for employees who worked in the office — perks that were eliminated when members were ordered to work from home.
- Other lawsuits, many of which are still working their way through the court system, have targeted business giants.
- Companies that are being sued for failing to reimburse their employees have argued that the pandemic caught them off guard and unprepared to respond.
- The lawsuits highlight one of the most dramatic changes the pandemic brought to the business.
- Workers said they teleworked frequently before the coronavirus outbreak.
Grammar Focus:Structure and Usage
Directions: The following groups of sentences are from the article. One of the sentences in each group contains a grammatical error. Identify the sentence (1, 2, or 3 ) from each group that contains the grammatical error.
- New social codes developed between employees and employers.
- This was another consequences of the mass relocation of office workers.
- Home expenses such as telephone and internet fees can add up.
- Seppala was laid off from Better Mortgage in December of 2021.
- Better Mortgage did knot respond to emails seeking comment on the case.
- The tech industry has faced strong criticism from workers after cutting perks during the pandemic.
- Meta, the parent company of Facebook, got pushback from employees last month.
- Other lawsuits have targeted such business giants as Wells Fargo Bank, Liberty Mutual Insurance, Visa, Oracle and Bank of America.
- Visa declined too comment on the lawsuit.
Reading Comprehension: Identify The Speakers
Directions: Read the following quotes from the speakers in the article. Then identify the speakers.
- “We have tons of these in the pipeline.”
- “This is one of those pandemic-related issues that rose very suddenly.”
- “As soon as we started working from home, I realized how much day-to-day money I really had because of how much went toward paying for that stuff.”
- Her bosses have failed to reimburse her and other employees for a variety of business expenses since sending them to work from home in March 2020.
- The cost shouldn’t be shifted to the employees…This benefits the business.”
- “For equipment like laptops, webcams, microphones and a work desk, it is reasonable for an employer to pay for this…For more general costs like refurbishing a home office, improved broadband or lunch, that is less common and would depend on a case-by-case basis.”
III. Post Reading Activities
Discussion Questions for Comprehension /Writing
Directions: Have students discuss the following questions/statements. Afterwards, students share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the topics mentioned.
- Did you have to work from home during the pandemic? Did you incur expenses while you worked? If so what were they?
- Did you have to attend school from home? If so, do you think students should be reimbursed for expenses incurred while working on their computers? Why or why not?
- What are some of the expenses incurred by employees who were forced to work from home during the pandemic?
- Do you agree that employees should be reimbursed for these expenses? Why or why not?
- What were some of the perks employees had while working from the office?
- Why are so many well known businesses being targeted with lawsuits?
- What are the reasons companies are giving for not reimbursing their employees?
- Do you agree with the companies or the employees? Provide reasons for your response.
- Why are some employees conflicted about suing their employers? Do you think they are correct in feeling this way?
- List three new ideas that you’ve learned about the topic from the reading, two things that you did not understand in the reading, and one thing you would like to know that the article did not mention. Share your responses with your class.