fb tracking

Businesses Must Be Kept Accountable So They Stop Treating Essential Workers as Expendable


Welcome to the latest edition of “Corporate Accountability, Not Immunity,” a daily tipsheet highlighting key news and important facts on why Congress should not give corporations legal immunity from coronavirus-related harms to workers, consumers, patients and the public. Please send tips, feedback and questions to David Rosen at drosen@citizen.org.

BANK EMPLOYEES FELT TREATED AS EXPENDABLE, NOT ESSENTIAL: A series of interviews with bank employees conducted by the University of Michigan School of Social Work in March and April found that many employees felt that their employer treated them as “expendable.” One teller resented that her bank wasn’t doing more to protect employees, who were in the branches while bank management worked from their homes. At one branch, employees drove from store to store during lunch breaks searching for gloves and disinfectant after the supplies provided to each bank branch ran out. Thanking workers and calling them “heroes” or “warriors” isn’t enough – we have to protect them as well. Liability laws provide that protection, giving businesses an incentive to take reasonable steps to protect workers, and in turn giving workers a way to seek compensation when businesses fail to do so.

WORKERS ASK COURT TO ORDER AMAZON TO INSTITUTE HEALTH PROTECTIONS: A group of Amazon warehouse employees sued the online retail giant, claiming its working conditions put them and their families at risk of contracting the coronavirus and caused one death. Employees “were explicitly or implicitly encouraged to continue attending work and prevented from adequately washing their hands or sanitizing their workstations.” The plaintiffs are not seeking damages; they are asking for an injunction requiring Amazon to “adhere to public health guidance.” The case shows the important role of lawsuits in compelling employers to take care to protect workers health and safety.

NO CORONAVIRUS SAFETY STANDARDS FOR AIRLINES: U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao on Wednesday reiterated her opposition to issuing standards to protect the health and safety of the flight crew and airline passengers. Although she acknowledges that “there are some workplace issues” concerning the coronavirus, she stated that they are “much more labor-management issues” and suggested that it would be “heavy-handed” for the government to address them. At the same time, some airlines are not enforcing requirements that passengers and crew wear masks. And some airlines are not ensuring that passengers are seated at a distance from one another. With the government missing in action, lawsuits remain a crucial tool for accountability.