The COVID-19 pandemic has severely affected employees and their families in Florida and around the globe. Even in these difficult times, people still need to work. Unfortunately, many employees have been exposed to COVID-19 while on the job and become extremely ill or have even lost their lives.
Employees have a legal right to a safe workplace. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) within the U.S. Department of Labor has guidelines for health and safety that serve to protect employees across the country.
The OSH Act of 1970
The OSH Act of 1970 contains a General Duty Clause that can be used as a basis for filing a lawsuit against an employer who has an unsafe workplace.
Section 5 General Duty Clause states:
- Each employer
- shall furnish to each of his employee’s employment and a place of employment which is free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees;
- shall comply with occupational safety and health standards promulgated under this Act.
- Each employee shall comply with occupational safety and health standards and all rules, regulations, and orders issued pursuant to this Act, which is applicable to his own actions and conduct.
In addition to the General Duty Clause, OSHA has other requirements that apply to prevent occupational exposure to COVID-19.
OSHA’s Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Standards
The standards from OSHA for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) are defined in the general industry, 29 CFR 1910 Subpart I, and, in construction, 29 CFR 1926 Subpart E. These require using gloves, eye and face protection, and respiratory protection when job hazards warrant it.
The details of the guidelines include:
When respirators are necessary to protect workers, employers must implement a comprehensive respiratory protection program in accordance with the Respiratory Protection standard (29 CFR 1910.134).
If you or a loved one were not provided with PPE and contracted COVID in the workplace, you may have a case.
OSHA has another set of guidelines that may be able to be utilized in a lawsuit against an employer.
OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogens Standards
29 CFR 1910.1030, OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogens standards apply to occupational exposure to human blood and other potentially infectious materials that typically do not include respiratory secretions that may contain SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) unless visible blood is present.
These provisions provide a framework that may help to control some sources of the virus, including exposure to body fluids not covered by the standard. This includes respiratory secretions that can contain COVID-19 and infect workers.
If you believe that you or your loved one’s employer violated these guidelines, don’t delay in contacting an employment law attorney.
30-Day Statute of Limitations to File an OSHA Whistleblower Complaint
It is critical to contact an experienced employment law firm as soon as possible due to the fact that employees only have 30 days to file a complaint with OSHA alleging retaliation as a result of your whistleblower complaints for violation of the OSH Act and related standards. After that, it is too late to file a whistleblower complaint with OSHA and while you may still have a basis for filing a civil action under state whistleblower statutes, you would lose your right to file a whistleblower complaint with OSHA. Time is of the essence regarding holding employers accountable for OSHA violations.
Contact Wenzel Fenton Cabassa, P.A. Today
If you or a loved one contracted COVID-19 while on the job, you may have a case against your employer. Contact an employment law attorney as soon as possible to discuss the details of your situation. You may be entitled to compensation.
Wenzel Fenton Cabassa, P.A. is an employment law firm that works tirelessly to defend and protect our clients from illegal workplace abuses, such as violations of OSHA standards. We help employees get the justice they deserve. Contact us today to schedule a free, confidential consultation.
Please Note: At the time this article was written, the information contained within it was current based on the prevailing law at the time. Laws and precedents are subject to change, so this information may not be up to date. Always speak with a law firm regarding any legal situation to get the most current information available.