According to the Houston Chronicle, 5,000 meat-packing plant workers across the country have fallen sick with COVID-19 and 20 people have died. Experts have already noted that it can be very tough to contain coronavirus outbreaks in meat packing plants. President Trump used the Defense Production Act to get meat packing workers back to work, but it isn’t clear what steps meat packing plants will be required to take to protect workers. Meat packing plants are designed so that workers render animals into meat in close quarters. While the CDC has called for spacing workers six feet apart, installing barriers between workers, and providing workers with protective equipment, there don’t appear to be options for workers to complain to OSHA (the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration) when meat packing plants or when employers in general don’t provide workers with the equipment or rules they need to stay safe.
According to ProPublica, over 4,000 workers across the country have complained to OSHA, claiming that their employers have not taken sufficient steps to protect them from contracting the coronavirus. While 27% of complaints came from workers in the health care industry, the remainder of the complaints came from workers in other industries. Even while health care workers remain protected with safety standards, other workers remain unprotected and there remain no official safety standards in place to ensure that other essential workers are protected.
Workers in various industries have complained that either employers weren’t ensuring that workers were at least 6 feet apart, that workers weren’t being provided with hand sanitizer, or that workers weren’t given the proper protective gear they need to be safe. To make matters worse, CDC guidelines haven’t always been in alignment with guidance provided by scientists and epidemiologists. For example, though people can spread the coronavirus when they are not symptomatic, the CDC says that workers can return to work even if they have been exposed to the coronavirus as long as they are not symptomatic.
Furthermore, unless multiple people in a place of work get sick, the OSHA is not investigating whether some COVID-19 case clusters might have originated at the workplace. Furthermore, OSHA has said that it will not formally handle coronavirus complaints unless the complaints are related to healthcare workers. Alarmingly, employers are only being asked to look for the CDC for guidance, but then to use their discretion regarding which standards to implement.
Furthermore, workers may struggle to take time off if they are sick, even though laws have been passed to encourage workers and permit workers to take paid sick leave due to the coronavirus. If you are a worker who is struggling to take paid sick leave, struggling to get paid for sick leave, or got sick because your employer isn’t complying with coronavirus laws and CDC suggestions, consider reaching out to the employment law firm at Moore & Associates in Houston, Texas. Our employment law firms are here to help. Reach out to us today or connect with our lawyer by reaching out to USAttorneys.com to get matched with the employment lawyers at Moore & Associates.