Workers may have concerns about being required to work during the pandemic. These worries may include issues that arise when other coworkers test positive, personal medical problems, or having a high-risk family member living at the employee’s home. Generally, employers may require their workers to come to work during the COVID-19 pandemic if the business is allowed to stay open by any government orders.
Employers are required to provide a safe and healthful workplace for their employees. Therefore, OSHA encourages employees to voice their concerns to their employers by offering protection from retaliation under certain conditions. Specifically, an employee is protected from retaliation under the following circumstances:
- The worker believes that they faced death or serious injury (and the situation is so clearly hazardous that another person would believe the same thing);
- The worker tried to get their employer to correct the problem, no correction was made, and there is no other way to do the job safely; or
- The situation is so urgent that the worker does not have time to eliminate the hazard by contacting OSHA or another regulatory agency.
Though employers may require their employees to work during the pandemic, they should be mindful that employees have the right to file a complaint against them. For example, employees may file a complaint when required to work in an environment where they believe they are being exposed to a serious health or safety hazard. Also, suppose an employee suffered retaliation for voicing their concerns about a hazard. In that case, the employee may file a whistleblower protection complaint against the employer. Therefore, employers should take the necessary steps to maintain a safe and hazard-free workplace when possible.