COVID-19: Workers have legal protection from workplaces that can cause serious imminent harm.

By Bryan A. Chapman, Esquire

Workers should not have to risk their health in order to earn a living. There are federal laws, as well as state and local laws, that protect workers from workplaces that can cause serious imminent harm. State and local laws vary, but some state and local laws offer workers more protection than federal laws. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, many states and cities have expanded their protection laws. For example, Michigan prohibits employers from firing workers who stay home for certain reasons related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Workers with a disability (hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, etc,) that puts them at higher risk from COVID-19 can request a reasonable accommodation that reduces their exposure to COVID-19 under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Under the ADA, employers are required to provide a reasonable accommodation, as long as, doing so does not cause an undue hardship. The worker and their employer must engage in an interactive process. A worker who believes their employer has violated their ADA rights can file a discrimination claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Workers are protected from retaliation, such as, being fired or demoted.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 ensures that private sector workers have safe and healthy working conditions. Any worker can refuse to work if their workplace can cause serious imminent harm. A worker can complain to their employer about safety issues and even refuse to work. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s General Duty Clause, requires employers to guarantee their employees a workplace “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.” If a worker believes that their workplace can cause serious imminent harm, they can file a complaint against their employer with OSHA. Workers are protected from retaliation, such as, being fired or demoted.

National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)

The National Labor Relations Board offers protection for workers who believe that their workplace is “abnormally dangerous”. Workers can complain to their employer about safety issues and even refuse to work. The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) gives workers the right to “strike for health and safety reasons”. If a worker or group of workers believes that their workplace is abnormally dangerous, they can file a complaint against their employer with NLRB. Workers are protected from retaliation, such as, being fired or demoted.

Word of caution: Consult an experienced civil rights attorney before taking action.

Law Office of Bryan A. Chapman

Contact:

Bryan A. Chapman, Esquire

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bchapman@baclaw.com

www.baclaw.com

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