At the Law Office of Michael O. Shea, we understand that many of you have been professionally affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, whether this means you have been given the opportunity to work from home, or have been furloughed or laid off. Some of you have essential roles to play in the active workforce, operating in hospitals, pharmacies, financial institutions, grocery stores, gas stations, manufacturing facilities and as first responders. In addition, there are those of you who have experienced an unprecedented companywide shutdown.
No one could have foreseen the various challenges presented at this time. We, at the Law Office of Michael O. Shea, remain available to assist you through any cases of discrimination, harassment, including sick leave harassment, or any other professional workplace boundaries that have been crossed. We feel it is pertinent that every employee is always treated professionally and equally, even through hard times. We do not tolerate unfair treatment of any kind by employers.
We are aware of the various concerns you may have, in relation to the Coronavirus pandemic. Our lawyers at the Law Office of Michael O. Shea are open to hearing and consulting you through any related case you may present. Some common concerns are listed below:
Client Concerns During the Covid-19 Pandemic:
- What rights do I have as an employee if my employer has failed to take steps towards illness prevention at work and/or towards protecting employees from Coronavirus or Covid-19 or other infectious diseases as per the OSH Act?
- Do I have the right to hesitate when asked to perform a task if I feel it is unsafe?
- Do I reserve the right to stay home or take a leave of absence to prevent contraction or to avoid contributing to the spread of infecting my surrounding population?
- With the recent pandemic, most individuals are now asking themselves, what are my illness at work rights?
- I feel that I have been discriminated against by my employer after requesting a leave of absence or have experienced harassment while on sick leave, such defined by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).
- I feel that I have been discriminated against by my employer after filing a complaint to my manager, human resources department or directly to OSHA for lack of effective protection within the workplace in response to the threat of contracting or coming in contact with Covid-19.
- I feel that my employer has leveraged the Covid-19 pandemic to act in their best interest to discriminate against, harass or wrongfully terminate me.
What does OSHA mean for you?
The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) was implemented in 1970 to ensure the safety of employees within the workplace. It requires qualifying employers to provide safe and healthful working conditions as well as provide research, information, education and training on health and physical hazards that may be present within the workplace.
Though there currently is no mention of airborne type threats, such as the most recent Coronavirus or other airborne infectious diseases, the most applicable provision can be found in Section 5(a)(1) titled the General Duties Clause. It states that “(e)ach employer… 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…” If your employer qualifies, they must abide by this law and may be prosecuted if otherwise not to take steps towards protecting their employees.
The General Duties Clause also states that employees “…shall comply with occupational safety and health standards and all rules, regulations, and orders issued pursuant to this Act which are applicable to his own actions and conduct.” Assuming they qualify, employees will receive proper training on safety within the workplace as necessary. They must follow the practices and guidelines put in place to ensure their individual safety as well.
Early March of 2020, OSHA provided some guidelines to help employers protect their employees, including the promotion of good hygiene habits, classifying various levels of exposure risk and steps to take specific to each level and limiting abroad and international travel. Regular washing of the hands, covering his or her mouth when coughing or sneezing and staying home if sick are just a few suggestions that are to be provided or encouraged to all staff members. There are currently no legal requirements in place that enforce such guidelines. However, if an employee feels they have been placed in a potentially harmful situation by their employer, they reserve the right to formally submit a complaint with OSHA. This right is protected by Section 11(c) of the OSH Act.
Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)
The primary goal of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act is to make the process in addition to the financials easier for employees to take leave of absence in effort reduce the spread of Covid-19 or the overall potential Coronavirus cases. It also provides paid sick leave to employees affected by the virus.
Not only does the act provide paid leave of absence, but it also establishes free Covid-19 testing, strengthens food assistance programs as well as unemployment benefits, and offers states additional funding as necessary to battle any consequences resulting from the Coronavirus pandemic.
How Can Attorney Michael O. Shea Help During the Covid-19 Pandemic?
During this stressful time, the likelihood for cases of discrimination occurring is at its highest. We want to ensure you that the Law Office of Michael O. Shea remains available and is here to help. Our primary focus is on workplace discrimination and sexual harassment. However, many of the above listed concerns flow between the realms of both.
We do not tolerate discrimination in the workplace nor do we tolerate wrongful termination or harassment. If you feel you have been treated differently than your peers, experienced being harassed by employer while off sick or selected for work reduction based on age, disability, gender, pregnancy, race/national origin or religion we will act compassionately and aggressively to achieve justice.
Please contact us at the Law Office of Michael O. Shea. We would be happy to answer any of your legal questions regarding workplace discrimination and harassment. We are taking calls and making appointments as needed and hope to ensure you are treated equally and professionally by your employer.