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An employment attorney explains your options if your company is not following COVID-19 precautions

Posted at 8:09 PM, Dec 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-07 20:09:07-05

CAPE CORAL — As COVID-19 numbers go up, people are getting more concerned about their potential exposure at work.

Here at Fox 4, we’ve received several calls from people concerned that their businesses aren’t taking the virus seriously. One of those people agreed to speak with us anonymously so that we could help him figure out what his options are. That man said, he takes precautions himself, like wearing a mask, but he said his business doesn’t require it.

“Masks were seldom used in the store. I wear one, as do certain other people, but it was not required of the clients who came into the premises. So I didn’t feel comfortable with that," said the man.

The man also said, at least one person has already tested positive.

"There was one employee who got sick, and that was kept secret. It was not shared with other employees," said the man.

The CDC recommends wearing masks indoors, spacing out employees by at least 6-feet, and ventilating indoor work spaces as much as possible.

But Employment Attorney Ryan Barack told us, if you’re facing problems like that at work, here in Florida, a lawsuit likely isn’t the answer.

“Employers have an almost complete immunity from suit by their employees, because Florida has said anything that goes on in the workplace associated with an injury or an illness, we’re going to say that your remedy for that is generally the Worker’s Compensation System," said Barack.

But there’s one problem: workman’s comp only applies to employees, not independent contractors.

“As a 1099 independent, you have to get your own insurance usually, which I don’t have. I am uninsured, I can’t afford it," said the man.

Barack said, in that case, your only alternative is the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, but it’s hit or miss.

“Unfortunately, during the pandemic, OSHA has not been as public and as out there as we would have liked," said Barack.

According to the Center for Public Integrity, OSHA inspections have dropped two-thirds during the pandemic.

The man we spoke with said, he just hopes employers start to recognize the danger is real.

“It’s not being taken very seriously, and as I believe we’ve crossed 280,000 deaths in this country, it just, it needs to be taken more seriously," said the man.

Congress is also in the progress of adding a COVID-19 liability shield to the next stimulus bill to protect companies from lawsuits, but Barack said, because you can’t normally sue businesses over those issues, it won’t have too much effect here in Florida.