Unsafe Work Conditions, Federal Inaction Prompt States, Workers, Advocates to Act

CORPORATE ACCOUNTABILITY, NOT IMMUNITY

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. Also refer to our tipsheet on misleading claims from industry groups and conservative lawmakers. Please send tips, feedback and questions to David Rosen at drosen@citizen.org.

ADVOCATES FOR NURSING HOME RESIDENTS OPPOSE LEGAL IMMUNITY: The Coalition for the Protection of Residents of Long-Term Care Facilities put out an issue brief on Wednesday opposing legal immunity for nursing homes. “By removing liability for negligent care, Congress would be eliminating an effective tool that encourages facilities to comply with state and federal laws and regulations. No accountability for bad actions means more residents will be harmed,” the brief says. “Immunity is not about workers, but about protecting facilities from accountability from their negligence.”

FAST-FOOD WORKERS STRIKE AGAINST UNSAFE CONDITIONS: Fast-food workers in Illinois and California protested unsafe work conditions Wednesday at restaurant chains that haven’t provided adequate protection from COVID-19. The workers filed complaints with city officials, walked off their jobs and staged strikes against McDonald’s and Burger King – demanding better treatment and proper workplace protections from the raging pandemic. The protests came just days after a Santa Monica, Calif., Burger King worker died after displaying symptoms of the coronavirus. Employees filed a complaint with state and county officials following her death, denouncing potentially dangerous conditions in the restaurant: infrequent cleaning of high-touch surfaces, lack of face masks and lax enforcement of social distancing. Businesses should be held accountable when they fail to take reasonable, commonsense steps to keep their workers safe.

VIRGINIA ADOPTS WORKPLACE SAFETY RULES IN RESPONSE TO INACTION FROM OSHA: On Wednesday, Virginia adopted the first set of coronavirus-related workplace safety mandates in the country. The state moved forward with new requirements after months of inaction from the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration, which has neglected its workplace safety mission since the start of the pandemic. Virginia’s safety and health codes board voted 9-2 to adopt an emergency temporary standard requiring businesses to implement safety measures to protect people from being infected with the coronavirus at work. The standard prohibits workers suspected of having the coronavirus from going to work, requires companies to notify workers of possible exposure to infected co-workers within 24 hours and includes mandates about physical distancing, protective gear, sanitation, disinfecting and hand washing. The standard also prohibits employers from retaliating against workers who air concerns about on the job infection risks. Companies could face financial penalties of up to $130,000 for violations. Workplace safety standards are vitally important. Coupled with state-law liability standards, they incentivize companies to take reasonable steps to protect workers, and they provide a mechanism for accountability when companies fail to do so.