As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to close down non-essential businesses throughout the United States, workers are calling for workplace safety laws to protect them from hazardous conditions.

Today, in an article published by the National Law Review, whistleblower attorney Stephen M. Kohn explained the need for reforms in the whistleblower provisions of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OSHA). OSHA is regarded as the primary federal law requiring a safe work environment.

“Under OSHA, employees can refuse to perform work that could result in ‘serious injury or death.’  But Labor Department rules give wide discretion to the Secretary of Labor to interpret this ‘right.’  Any aggressive ‘back to work’ policy implemented by the Trump administration would radically diminish the ability of workers to protect themselves,” Kohn explains.

According to Kohn, the reforms needed to make OSHA’s whistleblower law, §11(c), work to protect workplace whistleblowers are:

  • Enlarge the statute of limitations from 30-days to 180-days;
  • create a private right of action enabling whistleblowers who are subjected to retaliation to enforce their rights;
  • modernize §11(c) consistent with all of the modern whistleblower laws.

“Front line health and safety workers need OSHA to be an effective law for worker safety,” Kohn says. “While they risk their health daily by treating patients sick from the coronavirus pandemic, the current federal law designed to protect their safety does not work.  No worker should ever have to choose between their job and becoming sick from COVID-19.”

Read the article: Can OSHA Protect Coronavirus Whistleblowers?

Photo By Senior Airman Anne McCready, 47th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs / Published April 02, 2020