Employees Have a Right to be Safe at Work Amid COVID-19 Pandemic
The challenges we are all facing due to COVID-19 have resulted in many changes at home and in the workplace. While everyone must adapt to the rules of social distancing and the mandatory Safer-at-Home restrictions, essential businesses must also ensure their employees are safe at work during this pandemic. Employees of essential businesses continue to provide vital services despite the health risks, and will keep America operating. These front-line workers are important and have rights under California law to ensure their safety, health and well-being.
Under California law, employers must provide “reasonably adequate” safety devices and safeguards to keep the work place “safe and healthful.” Moreover, California Labor Code section 6401 requires “every employer shall do every other thing reasonably necessary to protect the life, safety, and health of employees.” If your employer does not protect your health and safety, they are violating the law. While this is especially challenging during the current pandemic, employees have the right to be safe in the workplace.
EMPLOYERS MUST PROVIDE MASKS, GLOVES, SOAP AND SANITIZER
Even though the current COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented, given our understanding of the virus and how it is spread, essential workers that have contact with the public must be provided with masks, gloves, soap and sanitizing products. In addition, employees must be given time to properly wash their hands frequently, as recommended by health care organizations. Employers must also ensure that the workplace is clean and regularly sanitized for the protection of employees and customers.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) and most health care organizations, properly washing your hands with soap and water is the most effective way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 as well as other disease.
The need for safeguards in the workplace is particularly important for health care providers and first responders who are more vulnerable simply because they are more likely to be in direct contact with contagious members of the public. Every effort must be made to provide sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE) to every front-line worker to ensure their health and safety, and avoid further contagion.
State law also requires employers to reimburse employees for any expenses spent by employees to obtain necessary safety equipment. This also includes the cost of lodging if an employee is required to self-isolate because they live with someone who is considered vulnerable to the virus or has been diagnosed with the virus.
EMPLOYERS SHOULD ACCOMMODATE VULNERABLE EMPLOYEES
Employees who are considered vulnerable to the virus by having a pre-existing medical condition, may request an accommodation to work from home. If the accommodation is reasonable, the employer must accommodate the request or may violate protections granted under California’s Fair Employment & Housing Act (FEHA). Since California is under a state of emergency due to the virus, employees should know what changes have been made to provide workers with protection during the pandemic.
For example, while employers may ask employees whether they are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, this information is confidential and the employee’s medical condition remains private. Similarly, if a co-worker has tested positive for the virus, or is believed to have the virus, the employer must follow the guidelines established by the local public health department as well as any current state or federal health recommendations. That may include closing the work place, deep cleaning and allowing employees to work remotely. Most importantly, employers cannot reveal the name of the employees that have tested positive or are suspected of having the virus.
Srourian Law Firm, with locations in Los Angeles, Westwood, Woodland Hills, and Orange County is experienced in all aspects of employment law including failure to ensure a safe and healthful workplace and have aggressively represented employees in Los Angeles, Hollywood, Santa Monica, Orange, Irvine, Anaheim, Santa Ana, Newport Beach, Costa Mesa, Fullerton, Tustin, Mission Viejo, San Clemente, Garden Grove, Laguna Niguel, Brea, Fountain Valley, Aliso Viejo, Yorba Linda, Westminster, Laguna Hills, Cypress, and La Habra.
If you or someone you know suffered employment violations as an employee such as failure to ensure a safe and healthful workplace in California, you may have certain employee rights under state and federal law and may be entitled to unpaid wages, interest, attorneys’ fees and costs, and/or be entitled to compensation as a part of the class action lawsuit. Please contact us to speak with one of our experienced lawyers for a free consultation.