I work in a ship-building factory, and a member of senior management was exposed to COVID-19.
He quarantined for 14 days, but when workers on the factory floor are exposed to the coronavirus, they are told to return to work only after a few days.
Despite the public-health guidelines, people are pushed to work in order to make our bosses happy, and people do go back because they’re afraid for their jobs.
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has very clear guidance on safety procedures for employers. Alas, not every employer is following them. I have lost count of the number of letters I’ve received in recent weeks from workers who are aghast at how their company is ignoring official public-health policy.
”Upon learning of a confirmed or suspected case of coronavirus affecting an employee or other individual who has been in recent close contact with the workplace, employers should be prepared to communicate with its workforce in a timely manner about the situation,” according to Proskauer, an international law firm based in the U.S.
“In making such communications, however, employers must remain mindful of confidentiality requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act — and any applicable state and/or local laws — that limit employers from revealing an employee’s medical information,” the law firm adds. What’s more, the CDC recommends employers disinfect surfaces.
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The government’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s “general duty” clause states that an employer should provide a safe environment and “shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.”
It does not apply to public-sector workers in some states, but it will likely apply to you. Inform your labor union of how people are being pushed to return to work early. If more people come down with coronavirus and die, or have other serious health complications, your company could face lawsuits and serious legal repercussions.
Executive Order 107 states: “All businesses or non-profits in the state, whether closed or open to the public, must accommodate their workforce, wherever practicable, for telework or work-from-home arrangements.” Disregarding the rules on quarantine could have repercussions for your boss that go beyond temporary closure.
In the meantime, please follow all safety procedures. Wear a mask, and gloves, wash your hands and try to remember not to touch your face. I write this and say this out loud because it helps to remind me too. Awareness about this New Normal, and taking the right actions will help see us through this public-health crisis. And thank you for working yesterday, today and tomorrow.
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