Complaints are growing nationwide about workplace safety issues related to coronavirus. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, has received more than 6,500 nationwide on a federal level since February.
One trial lawyer who works in employment law says she expects the number of complains will keep going up.
“Where I really think the numbers are going to escalate is in the retaliation world, where employees bring issues to their employers' attention about failing to implement appropriate administrative or engineering controls or social distancing measures and then they feel that they have suffered an adverse employment action as a result of bringing this to their employer's attention,” said trial lawyer Laura Lawless.
OSHA recently updated its guidance on COVID-19-related workplace safety. It now suggests wherever possible and feasible employers should require masks at work.
This guidance is something Lawless says everyone was waiting on. She says for states or cities that already had a mask mandate it was easier to enforce at work already, but for states that don't have this mandate, it was harder until now.
“At least you can now turn to CDC guidance and OSHA guidance as an employer and say look even if you disagree with us for a political reason or personal expression reason, we're following the guidance from agencies that are meant to look out for your health and safety,” said Lawless.
Still, there are concerns OSHA isn't going far enough in other areas. One big criticism among employee protective organizations, workers organizations and unions is that OSHA’s guidance on COVID-19 isn't a regulation and doesn't really have any teeth.
Virginia and Oregon are two states looking to fill in the gap with their own worker protections.
If you see issues in your workplace, the employment lawyer recommends being reasonable in your approach and not getting too emotional in your reaction. She says also keep careful documentation about who you spoke to and what you talked about.