What to do if your Employer isn't Following Re-Opening Guidelines

What to do if your Employer isn't Following Re-Opening Guidelines

Katie Lyon
 | 
As people across the country return to traditional workplace settings, Coronavirus cases are spiking in the South and West.  It's more important than ever to take proper safety precautions in the workplace to protect both employees and customers. 

Expectations for safe working conditions in the era of the Coronavirus have been laid out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). 

Despite these guidelines, many workplaces are not doing enough to keep their employees safe. This has been especially true of the food service and fast food industries, where social distancing is nearly impossible. For example, a group of McDonald's workers in Chicago filed a lawsuit alleging they weren't given enough gloves, masks or sanitizer. 

If you are feeling unsafe in your workplace, you have the right to request changes be made.

What does the government require my workplace to do to protect me from Coronavirus?

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) encourages employers to: 
  • Assess the hazard level of their workplaces
  • Implement social distancing policies
  • Improve building ventilation
  • Check the health of employees daily
  • Encourage employees to wear face masks
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has laid out non-binding guidelines that businesses of various sizes are encouraged to follow in their reopening plans. It encourages all businesses to:
  • Develop a plan to adequately address and respond to a workplace outbreak
  • Implement basic preventative measures, including handwashing and staying home when feeling sick
  • Develop procedures to identify and isolate sick individuals 
  • Ensure that existing worker safety protections are being followed
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act requires businesses with fewer than 500 employees to give 2 weeks of paid sick leave to any employee with symptoms of COVID-19. A number of cities have similar policies which apply to larger companies as well.

If you are unsure of whether your rights have been violated, read up on the steps your employer should be taking to protect your safety during the coronavirus. 

My employer isn’t taking these precautions. What should I do?

You have a lot of options. You can:
Talking to HR can be intimidating, since it may be more challenging to stay anonymous. However, working the issue out within the company may also be quicker and less messy than getting the government involved. 

If your employer does not make the necessary changes to make your workplace safe, you may want to file a safety and health complaint through OSHA to request a workplace inspection.. 

Through OSHA, you have the ability to stay anonymous. However, they are more likely to follow up with your complaint and inspect your workplace if you put your name on it.

If you choose to get an attorney, that person can help you figure out which is the most appropriate method of reporting your unsafe working conditions. 

Can I get in trouble for filing a complaint against my company?

If you have a good faith belief that your rights are being violated, you should be legally protected by OSHA from retaliation by your employer. This means your employer cannot do any of the following in response to your complaint:
  • Fire you or lay you off
  • Demote you or deny you a promotion
  • Intimidate or harass you
  • Reduce your pay
  • Discipline you in any way
If your employer does react to your complaint with any form of retaliation, you should seriously consider getting a lawyer. Your attorney can help to ensure that you are compensated for any actions taken against you by your employer.

When should I get a lawyer?

If you believe your rights are being violated, and are considering filing a formal complaint, it may be in your best interest to consult with an attorney. 

This is especially true if you are filing a complaint to OSHA or your state’s workers protection agency. Whether or not these cases are taken up heavily depend upon the evidence you provide of the unsafe working conditions. A lawyer can help file this paperwork, and increase your chances of real change being made in your workplace.

You can take this quiz or call LawChamps' Customer Success team at (866) 653-3017 to figure out whether a lawyer is necessary in your case. 


This article is intended to convey generally useful information only and does not constitute legal advice. Any opinions expressed are solely those of the author, not LawChamps.
Katie Lyon

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