COVID-19 and Employee Rights
We Represent Workers Fired for Requesting PPE and Safe Working Conditions
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to grow, many businesses have shut down altogether due to social distancing mandates. However, certain businesses – particularly in the healthcare, shipping, and grocery industries – have been deemed “essential” and allowed to stay open during the crisis. This means millions of workers in these industries are facing heightened risks of COVID-19 exposure at work.
Unfortunately, many employers have already threatened, reprimanded, or fired employees who speak up about the need for personal protective equipment (PPE) and safer working conditions on the frontlines. Whether you are a doctor treating COVID-19 patients or a grocery store worker with a weakened immune system, you shouldn’t have to worry about losing your job for seeking basic safety protections in the workplace. At Greene Broillet & Wheeler, LLP, our employment law attorneys are ready and willing to fight for your rights – and hold employers accountable for failing to protect their workers and the public from a dangerous pandemic.
Call (866) 634-4525 today or contact us online for a free consultation. Based in Los Angeles, our employment law team can assist workers in California and nationwide.
Employee Protections During COVID-19
Now that the United States has more COVID-19 cases than any other nation, most states have issued executive orders requiring citizens to stay at home or “shelter in place,” unless they are participating in an activity defined as essential. This means it is illegal for businesses to compel non-essential workers to come into the office, and it is also illegal for them to retaliate against workers who try to obey the law.
Essential workers also have protections during the COVID-19 pandemic, as these individuals face higher risks of contracting the coronavirus. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) already requires employers to maintain a reasonably safe and hazard-free working environment, and in light of the pandemic, OSHA has also issued new guidance about COVID-19.
Understanding the OSHA Guidance on Workplace Safety
Under the OSHA guidance, essential workers are divided into 4 categories of risk, based on the level of their predicted exposure to COVID-19. Because healthcare professionals are often required to help treat the virus, their risk of exposure is considered “very high.” For roles like these, employers are required to provide adequate PPE, hand sanitizer, disinfecting products, and a range of other environmental and administrative safeguards. Grocery store cashiers and retail workers, on the other hand, may only be considered “medium” risk, and employers are only required to implement environmental controls such as sneeze guards.
However, the OSHA guidance isn’t the only rule to keep in mind for low- and medium-risk workers: Under most social distancing orders, citizens are required to maintain 6 feet of distance from others in public. Some orders – such as the local mandate in Los Angeles County – also include specific mandates to wear non-surgical masks in public. If essential workers are unable to meet these requirements, it is improper for them to work in public-facing positions.
Workers Fired at Amazon and Hospitals Nationwide
Although employees do have clearly-defined rights during this crisis, some employers have refused to comply with social distancing orders and OSHA guidelines by threatening or terminating workers who fear for their safety. At Amazon’s vast warehouses, three workers have already been fired (and countless others reprimanded) for publicizing concerns about unsafe working conditions, or for refusing to work without PPE, proper sanitation methods, and other protections. Healthcare workers have also reported wrongful termination after speaking to the press about mask and testing kit shortages – or for asking their organizations for appropriate PPE.
If any of the following situations apply to you, you may have grounds to take legal action:
- You are a healthcare worker concerned about patient safety because your hospital/clinic has not followed OSHA and state guidelines.
- You have been disciplined, threatened, or fired for refusing to work without social distancing measures or PPE.
- You have been terminated after advocating for better working conditions or reporting violations of OSHA and state guidelines.
- You were fired for failing to appear at a non-essential business after a shelter-in-place order.
- You were denied emergency sick leave or time off work for COVID-19 concerns, or to care for a family member who has the virus.
At Greene Broillet & Wheeler, LLP, we understand that it can be overwhelming to take legal action after facing a wrongful termination or other illegal action from your employer. While the laws on COVID-19 and employee rights are ever-evolving and changing, our multi-disciplinary legal team has the skill to review your claim and advocate for public safety.
With billions recovered in high-stakes civil litigation, our experienced Los Angeles employment law attorneys can apply more than 100 years of experience to your claim. We’re not afraid to stand up to companies that break the law and put their workers and the public at risk, and as your dedicated legal team, we will also offer the compassionate support you deserve during this difficult time.
Need to speak with an experienced employment lawyer? Contact Greene Broillet & Wheeler, LLP at (866) 634-4525 today for a free consultation.
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