At a time when our society needs them the most, essential employees are being fired by their employers for reasons that go against labor laws, health and safety mandates, and common decency.
Nurses have been let go from hospitals overrun with COVID-19 patients, allegedly for talking about the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE).
Grocery store employees lost their jobs after being reprimanded wearing gloves at work.
In nursing homes and long-term care facilities – where deadly coronavirus outbreaks have accounted for nearly half of all deaths in some states – workers reported being fired after calling out practices that go against health and safety mandates from federal and state public health agencies.
It is unfair for workers to lose their jobs for demanding the right to protect themselves while working. If you got fired in connection with workplace safety concerns pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic, you may have the grounds for a wrongful termination lawsuit or a whistleblower lawsuit.
Federal law guarantees employees the right to a safe workplace – one that is “free of known health and safety hazards,” the Occupational Safety and Health Administration reported.
During this infectious disease outbreak, what constitutes a “safety hazard” has changed drastically. During a time when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are recommending that everyone cover their nose and mouth with a mask in public settings and that healthcare workers wear facemasks, respirators, and gloves to minimize the risk of infection, being forced to work without proper PPE may be enough to constitute an unsafe work environment.
OSHA also guarantees that workers have “the right to speak up about” health and safety concerns in the workplace “without fear of retaliation.” Not only is it illegal under OSHA for an employer to fire a worker for complaining about unsafe work conditions, but it is also illegal for the employer to retaliate in other ways, such as demoting or transferring the employee.
It’s not okay for an employer to illegally fire you for wanting to work in a safe environment. And this isn’t behavior you should just ignore, either. Don’t give an employer who is in the wrong a pass on these illegal practices.
Suing an employer for a COVID-19-related wrongful termination is as important for the benefit of other workers in the industry as it is for you personally. Until your former employer is held accountable for its unsafe work practices and wrongful terminations, nothing will change. That company will continue to put at risk the lives of its workers and to put anyone who dares to voice their valid health and safety concerns out of a job.
Suing for Wrongful Termination
Adding to the complexity of the coronavirus outbreak’s impact on work environment safety is a widespread shortage of protective gear. Because employers have a hard time getting enough PPE to go around, some are asking employees to go without or even refusing to allow workers who acquire their own PPE to use it.
It’s especially alarming that healthcare professionals like nurses are being suspended or fired over employment issues stemming from insufficient PPE when working with sick patients – particularly, those with a confirmed positive coronavirus diagnosis.
Many of the COVID-19 wrongful termination lawsuits filed so far have been on behalf of healthcare professionals, like nurses, whose employers compromised their safety with their irresponsible approach toward matters of PPE. However, other essential workers, like grocery store employees, have also come forward with claims of wrongful termination.
To sue your employer for unfair termination, you will need to start by finding an attorney who can investigate whether your employer’s actions were illegal under OSHA COVID-19 standards and other federal, state, and local laws that pertain to health and safety in the workplace.
Fortunately, once you hire a COVID-19 wrongful termination lawyer, your attorney will take over every aspect of managing the claim. It’s no longer your responsibility to get to the bottom of things, to wade through the complex statutes of labor laws and company policies. Instead of continuing to interact with an employer who has treated you so poorly, you’re handing this burden off to a professional.
If you are aware of an unsafe working condition during the COVID-19 pandemic, you have the right to file a health and safety complaint with OSHA.