With states now beginning to draw down their quarantines, many employers are looking to reopen their businesses, some earlier than their employees feel comfortable with. While the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued some guidance on protecting employees from the coronavirus, it has largely been industry specific, particularly focusing on healthcare workers. In response to concerns from its members, the AFL-CIO has filed an emergency action in federal court, demanding OSHA take action to protect workers from coronavirus exposure at work.
The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) is the largest labor advocacy group in the country, representing fifty-five national and international unions and over twelve million current and retired workers. The AFL-CIO, along with other labor advocacy groups, have been requesting broad guidance from OSHA about measures employers should take to protect their employees from coronavirus exposure. They sent a petition to OSHA in early March formally requesting they issue an Emergency Temporary Standard, which could quickly institute a rule about protecting employees from COVID-19.
However, initial efforts to petition OSHA to action failed, as did sending a letter to Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia. As a result, they have now filed an emergency petition with the D.C. Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals, asking the court to intervene and compel OSHA to action. Given the emergent nature of the demand, the process has been expedited, requiring both parties to submit their initial briefs by June 2.
However, despite this effort by the AFL-CIO, the union may be unable to prevail in the case. Under current law, administrative agencies like OSHA have broad authority to determine what rules they choose to issue, and it is difficult to force them to issue a new rule against their will. Nevertheless, the AFL-CIO is hoping that its suit can spur OSHA to action and protect workers from the coronavirus as employers try to return to business as usual.
If you have gotten into a legal dispute with your employer, it is important that you seek the guidance of an experienced New York employment lawyer who can protect your legal rights and advocate on your behalf. Steven Mitchell Sack, the Employee’s Lawyer, is a New York employment lawyer with more than 39 years’ experience handling the many aspects of employment law. To schedule an appointment with New York City employment lawyer Steven Mitchell Sack, call (917) 371-8000.