Covid Workers Rights Attorney

Covid has turned the City upside down, but we’re trying to make the best of it. Doctors, nurses and EMTs are risking their lives to provide care, while other essential workers are backing them up. Non-essential employees are working from home or wondering if and when their jobs will resume. Safety is a major concern for all. Many people have been asking me what to do if they’re being pushed by their employers to work under conditions that pose an unreasonable risk to their health. Here’s the scoop from an experienced Covid workers rights attorney on what to do if you don’t feel safe at work.

How A Covid Workers Rights Attorney Can Help

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides for workers to file a complaint about hazardous working conditions, but recommends that you first bring the problems to your employer’s attention. We are all well aware of the risks to health care workers and how their PPE has been in short supply, but there are many other types of “essential workers” that are also being exposed. For example, if you’re a cashier, you should have enough masks and gloves so that you can change them frequently. You should also have a convenient place to wash your hands, hand sanitizer and a plexiglass screen between yourself and the customers. If any of these things are missing, you’re at risk of “death or serious harm” that probably cannot be “corrected quickly enough for OSHA to inspect and take action.” This may give you the legal right to refuse to work under these conditions. To successfully pursue the legal right to refuse to work due to hazardous conditions under OSHA, certain requirements must be met. One of the conditions that’s most relevant to Covid, is that your refusal to work must be in “good faith.” You must prove that you felt an imminent danger exists and that a reasonable person would believe their life was in danger. It is a rare New Yorker that doesn’t know somebody that’s suffered or died from Covid, and we’re all haunted by the sound of ambulance sirens. If you’re finding yourself on the verge of a panic attack at work or with the thought of going back to work, it might be worthwhile to seek the assistance of a mental health professional.  A mental health professional may be able to help you cope better and back up your claims of extreme fear. It’s especially important to take action if you are older and/or have a health condition that makes you more vulnerable. Speaking to a Covid workers rights attorney can help you clarify whether you have a right to refuse to work due to dangerous conditions.

New York State Has Specific Covid Protections For Workers

Governor Andrew Coumo has been proactive about getting some specific laws passed to address worker safety during Covid. In New York State, you’re entitled to sick leave, paid family leave and disability benefits if you’re “impacted” by Covid. It’s important to know that if you work for a “non-essential” business you may not be forced to go to the worksite. If you’re not sure whether your workplace is considered essential, you can check here. You can also file a complaint if you work for an essential business, but you don’t perform an essential function, your job could be performed from home, your workplace is not safe, you’re in a high risk group or for other reasons. It’s a good idea to speak to a Covid workers rights attorney before taking any action with your employer. You can file a complaint here.

Wittenstein & Wittenstein Is Here For You

It’s a good idea to get advice before refusing to work, as losing your job and/or unemployment benefits is always a risk. If your workplace is safe and you are offered work, the best thing to do is accept the employment, refusing to work due to unsafe conditions is always a last resort. If you must refuse to work due to an unsafe workplace, please call me to discuss what to do before you take any action with your employer. There is no cost for the consultation. I’m a Covid workers rights attorney, and I’d be happy to talk to you on the phone or set up a Zoom conference. Please don’t hesitate to call me with any questions you may have as this crisis continues to unfold. We are a community!

Call 718-261-8114 for an appointment or click here.

 

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About the Author:

Senior Partner Ms. Wittenstein began working at the firm in 1985 as a managing paralegal, learning all the practices and procedures of the firm from Mr. Wittenstein and the staff. From 1995-1998, she attended CUNY Law School where she made a mark as a teaching assistant for Civil Rights leader Haywood Burns. She founded a Human Rights Delegation to Haiti and studied Constitutional Law with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Working at the Equal Opportunity Employment Commision (EEOC), she learned a great deal about Employment Discrimination matters. She brought her knowledge of the Personal Injury practice and her passion for Civil Rights to the firm when she was admitted to the Bar in 1999. In 2000, she became a partner and the firm name was changed to Wittenstein & Wittenstein, Esqs. PC.

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