Labor and Employment E-lert: Unions Want the Occupational, Safety and Health Administration to Ensure Safety of the Workplace

By: William H. Andrews, Shareholder

In light of the fact that President Donald Trump and many state governors are calling for a reopening of the workplace, AFL-CIO President, Richard Trumka called on government leaders to adopt several protective measures before the country attempts to return to normal, as some state and federal leaders are aiming to do sooner rather than later. The measures proposed by the union leaders apply whether your company is unionized or not.

Mr. Trumka is asking lawmakers to demand federal regulators enact emergency standards making employees limit virus exposure and protect workers from retaliation if they do not feel safe returning to work. "Workers should have the right to refuse to go to work if they believe it is unsafe" ... "no worker should be put himself or family in danger of contracting this deadly virus," Trumka said.

Labor leaders have repeatedly demanded that the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration issue an "emergency temporary standard" making employers limit their worker's exposure to Coronavirus under penalty or fine. Several members of Congress have proposed a new law called "The Covid-19 Every Worker Protection Act" which would require OSHA to make every employer implement infectious disease exposure controls and prohibit them from retaliating against workers who report concerns. Currently, 11(c) of OSHA makes it unlawful for an employer to take an adverse employment action against an employee for filing an OSHA-related safety complaint. As mentioned, these proposed protections apply to union and non-union companies, and as businesses begin to reopen, Employers should seek legal guidance before taking an adverse employment action against an employee who refuses to return to work for alleged safety concerns.